County responds to growing number of calls

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Demand for Big Lakes County Fire Services for responses and recruiting continues to rise.

“We are seeing a trend where emergency responses are increasing to the point of where our numbers at the end of the year will be higher than our three-year average,” says fire chief John McDermott.

“We are seeing an overall increase in incidents requiring emergency response.”

County firefighters assisted at wildland fires early in the season in joint operations with the Slave Lake Wildfire Management Area’s response crews.

Neighbouring municipalities and Indigenous communities in the region and the county can always count on each other for support.

“Big Lakes County Fire Services actively works to ensure that either a mutual-aid agreement of service agreement is in place in order for us to safely and effectively ensure we are able to support our neighbors in both First Nations communities and Metis Settlements,” McDermott says.

Two new fire trucks arrived in June as part of the county’s fire truck replacement schedule.

A 2016 Freightliner fire engine was welcomed by Enilda Fire District. The tank on the truck carries 800 gallons of water and has a pumping capacity of 1,250 gallons/minute, as well as foam capability.

As well, the truck has the ability to draw water from non-traditional sources such as a lake, river or dugout.

A 2018 Ford F550 4-wheel-drive-fire rescue truck arrived in Joussard. The truck is designed to serve a dual-purpose apparatus and as a light rescue for motor vehicle collisions with towing capacity.

More upgrades are also on the way.

“Additionally, we’ve begun replacing firefighter turn-out gear in order to meet safety standards,” McDermott says.

Several firefighters are taking steps to upgrade their skills under the National Fire Protection Association.

“We are also preparing to begin a NFPA course which will see 15 county firefighters become trained and certified as professional firefighters to the international standard,” McDermott says.

More firefighters are needed and welcomed.

“We especially need members in the Joussard Fire District,” McDermott says.

“Becoming a member of the fire service in your community is a great way to get involved, in addition to building lifelong skills and relationships. The opportunities are endless.”

The county is developing a recruiting campaign that will be promoted twice a year.

Information and application booklets are available at the five fire halls and at the main county administrative office in High Prairie.

Those accepted receive in-house training and familiarization.

“After a period of time, the probationary fire- fighter will be issued a pager and will be able to respond to operational calls for service,” McDermott says.

Formal certified training is available where the county provides an internationally certified program.

“Once successfully completed, the firefighter will build on what they’ve learned at a basic level and is required to not only maintain, but build on those skills in addition to learn and develop new ones,” McDermott says.

“Ongoing training is a key to the safety and success of not just the individual firefighter, but the team they work with.”

Regular training in the county occurs on the first and third Monday of each month in each fire district from 7-9 pm.

Additional training occurs on weekends and is scheduled in advance.

Besides training and regular operations, fire- fighters participate in various community events in the county.

For more information on how to become a firefighter, phone [780] 776-0007.

 

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