City graduates first post-pandemic class of volunteer firefighters
In late 2021, Kawartha Lakes Fire Rescue Service Chief Terry Jones told council that his force was in need of sixty new volunteer firefighters.
Jones set out a masterplan for recruitment to replace those volunteers lost to COVID fatigue, uncooperative bosses who frowned upon release time for their volunteer firefighter employees, and those who were unable to balance their family and work commitments with volunteer firefighting.
Last week, the fire service graduated 29 of 30 new recruits who will soon be staffing a firehall somewhere close to where they live in the city.
Jones told the Advocate via e-mail that each successful candidate received 40 hours of theory and 66 hours of practical training to qualify as a volunteer firefighter.
“The only individual who did not complete training was an individual offered a full-time position with another fire service,” Jones said.
“A further 35 are signed up for a fall course,” Jones said. “All interviews have been completed for this intake and their practical training begins on September 12.”
When asked if this initial shortage of volunteer firefighters had put undue strain on those who were still serving, as suggested by some volunteers interviewed for an article in the Advocate earlier this spring, Jones said the following.
“There would have been a very minimal increase in calls (for remaining volunteer firefighters) as all structure fires are a three-station response. Other stations step in to provide sufficient firefighters to cover any shortage of a particular station. Additional stations to the first three may also be called to assist in any situation where more firefighters are required.”
“The situation can happen at any time,” Jones said, “as even if a station has a full roster of volunteers, it is not guaranteed that everyone will be available.”
When asked about the wage discrepancies between volunteer firefighters across central Ontario, where Kawartha Lakes volunteers make more than some at $20-25 per hour and less than others Jones said, “There is no standard (wage) set by the province. Kawartha Lakes volunteer firefighters are a unionized work force and negotiate wages in their collective agreement.”