The Fraser Lake Fire Chief is looking for more firefighters to strengthen his department.
Dave Balding took over from previous fire chief Joe Pacheco in May after he took the chiefs position with the Vanderhoof fire department.
Balding joins the Fraser Lake department from Southern Vancouver Island where he spent 25 years in a volunteer department. He says he is really enjoying northern life.
“I’m completely new to the area and I’m liking it very much,” said Balding.
“The staff, the people in the village – they are just incredible people,” he said.
Since he started the job on May 2 he says one of his key aims has been to recruit more volunteers to the department. Currently, the department has 17 firefighters. The maximum number of volunteers the department can take is 32.
“We are seeing some of the challenges that frankly a lot of the volunteer fire services are seeing in terms of both attracting and retaining members,” said Balding.
He attributed societal changes as part of the problem with finding volunteer recruits.
“Most homes now have two working parents and it’s becoming an increasing challenge to free up spare time for volunteer activities,” he said.
Balding hopes raising the departments profile within the community and doing some more marketing should help with recruitment.
“One of the things that the fire service is typically not very good at is marketing itself, and I think we need to be engaged in the community and we need to conscientiously raise our profile to get more community involvement,” he said.
Balding says he plans on holding an open house and getting the department involved in more community events to allow people to interact more with the department.
He added that there are many benefits to belonging to the fire department, in particular the feeling of being part of a team.
“One of the most tangible things is the sense of belonging to a very close knit team – almost a family if you will.
“The relationships that are developed and the support network that exists within the fire department typically are very, very strong and we frankly have a tougher time attracting members than we do keeping them and think thats in large part because of that strong support network,” he said.
“It’s also a great way to help your community – you certainly are helping people, quite probably when they are in their worst hours,” he added.
Balding says he would welcome anyone with an interest and even just recruiting a few more members would make a big difference to the department, and would certainly lighten the load on the rest of the volunteers.
“When somebody picks up the phone because they are having an emergency and they call the fire department, they expect a well trained, well equipped crew to show up and do their job, and so they should.
“It can be challenging to meet that expectation without enough volunteers,” said Balding.