Volunteer firefighters are urgently needed in Mirror.
About a dozen firefighters are needed to bring the department up to standard but only a handful — four or five — are available.
“We’re having to rebuild the fire department,” said Lacombe County Coun. Brenda Knight, whose division includes the Hamlet of Mirror.
“The membership had dwindled,” said Knight. “As a result, we had to take a long, hard look at how we’re going to manage this fire department.”
Knight said the county is launching a strong recruitment drive to bolster the numbers.
“If it takes 18 months, if it takes two years — it does. But we need to have boots in the hall, that are well trained, well vested and we have a full-fledged fire department in Mirror again.
“And we will.”
Alix, which has a strong department of 25 to 30 members, is covering Mirror, which is only about 10 km away, said Keith Boras, county manager of environmental and protective services. Mirror will serve as an auxiliary fire department.
When a Mirror fire call comes in it will be taken and responded to from Alix. Mirror firefighters will help to the level allowed by their training.
Boras is confident Mirror remains well covered by firefighters.
Besides dwindling numbers, Mirror’s firefighters’ training levels had also fallen behind the required standards.
“We’re not allowed to have employees doing jobs they are not trained for,” he said.
“That’s an issue in many small departments. It’s very difficult because you’re asking volunteers to put a lot of time into keeping that training up.”
Boras said today’s volunteer firefighters are asked to do much more than their predecessors 20 years ago, who usually only responded to fires. Now, firefighters attend vehicle collisions and may be called on to extract victims from vehicles. Collisions might also mean dealing with hazardous materials.
“We’re just putting a lot of responsibilities on these guys,” he said. “We’re asking them to do a lot more than we did 20 to 25 years ago.”
Mirror isn’t the only volunteer fire department in Central Alberta that is struggling to keep its numbers up.
Donalda fire station has been temporarily closed because of a volunteer shortage.
Stettler Regional Fire Department’s Station 1, which is in the town, will cover for Donalda until more volunteers are recruited.
The Donalda station was down to four volunteers, well below the 12 volunteers recommended by fire underwriters. To operate efficiently, at least 15 volunteers are needed.