Lacombe County has launched a recruiting drive to beef up its volunteer firefighter ranks.
About 100 volunteers are available to answer calls in the county, based in fire halls in Alix, Bentley, Clive and Eckville.
“Ideally, we would like that number to be around 125 members,” said Lacombe County Fire Chief Drayton Bussiere.
“There is no doubt that our departments have seen an increase in calls over the years, and like many departments across the province, it’s hard to find volunteers in rural communities who can help when called,” he said.
Bussiere said that many potential volunteers work in larger centres and aren’t available for calls during the day.
Volunteer firefighters are paid on-call positions.
“We expect our firefighters to take time out of their personal schedules, both for training and when attending calls, and we will reimburse them for their commitment,” he said.
Volunteer firefighter recruitment is an ongoing issue in many rural communities. Eighty per cent of Alberta’s firefighters are volunteers working out of 450 departments.
In 2018, Lacombe County had to shut down the Mirror department because of a lack of volunteers. Twelve fully trained volunteers were necessary to keep the small department viable, but only five had been available to answer the call for most of the past two years.
A last-ditch effort to recruit enough volunteers to keep the department going was launched, but despite that push, not enough suitable applications were received.
Bussiere wants to hear from anyone considering volunteering, so he can give them a sense of the level of commitment required and the expectations.
Volunteer firefighters must be 18 or older, physically fit and have a Class 5 driver’s licence. They must also live in the response area.
More information can be found at www.lacombecounty.com