Rural fire departments in communities throughout the Maritimes are facing a real challenge these days, trying to recruit young people to what is an essential need in every town and village â€“ the local fire service.
As our population ages, just where will the new recruits come from? Springhillâ€™s Fire Chief Tom Corkum alluded to that during a recent open house and information session in Springhill. He told the Amherst News that smaller communities are unfortunately losing many of their young people to the urban areas and to those parts of the country where there are jobs. Corkum says those who do show an interest will take the training but are soon lost to a job out west.
Iâ€™ve always been impressed by the dedication and commitment of volunteer firefighters and the role they play in shaping their communities. Beyond the task of performing their duties as emergency first responders, they do so much more in terms of fundraising and providing leadership in initiating programs and activities for youth to seniors.
Just as an example, in towns like Amherst, Springhill and Sackville, generations of families have had an ongoing association with their fire department and when thereâ€™s been a specific community need the Firefighters Association and the Firefighters Ladies Auxiliary have been there as part of the fundraising effort.
Iâ€™m told by some of the older firefighters that there was a day when young men would line up for the privilege of serving their community as a volunteer firefighter.
Thereâ€™s no doubt that being a volunteer firefighter can be extremely demanding. In what other line of work would a volunteer suddenly leave their paying jobs or pull themselves out of bed in the middle of the night to risk their lives responding to an emergency?
On top of that are the hours of rigorous training necessary for first responders to deal with a wide variety of emergency situations. And of course, there are the hours of other volunteer activity like the fund raising and community awareness and fire prevention projects that are all part of being a member of the fire service.
On the other hand, I know of few other volunteer services that are more rewarding and vital to a community than the fire service. If youâ€™re 19 years of age or older and would like to be a part of an exceptional organization where youâ€™ll certainly develop new skills, teamwork, develop new friendships and make a valuable contribution to your community â€“ your volunteer fire department needs you.
Geoff deGannes is a past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.