New recruitment rules spark excitement at fire department
When Castlegar fire chief Gerry Rempel says he has an open-door policy, he means to all age groups – and it shows.
Rempel presented a new recruitment policy to council at its regular meeting Monday night, requesting the department open its doors to youth and retired firefighters, in defiance of current age restrictions that limit volunteer opportunities to those between the ages of 19 and 60.
Rempel pointed out that the age limits are not unreasonable, as the strenous and critical nature of the job requires a certain level of physical fitness and maturity, but said the issue doesn’t have to be that black-and-white.
For example, he said he has received many requests from teens who want to volunteer, but cannot due to age restrictions.
“Numerous departments do operate a ‘junior firefighter’ program designed for youth between the ages of 16 and 19,” he said. “This program does not allow for active firefighting duties, but would provide initial firefighter training, citizenship, education and a sense of community and volunteerism.
“As well, this would establish a resource for the recruitment of members as active firefighters upon reaching the age of 19.”
As for more mature, senior members, he said their experience, amturity and knowledge-base represent a valuable – and currently wasted – resource for the department.
“The (mandatory) retirement age would remain in effect for active members engaged in firefighting and rescue duties … (however) from time to time, members request to remain in the department after their retirement age and are still able to perform very important functions within the department such as training, equipment maintenance – quite a variety of support duties,” Rempel said. “It is very important not to lose the experience gained from many years of service to our community.”
In summation, he said a more open approach to recruiting could not but serve the department and the city well, adding that neither the departmental budget nor the active roster will be impacted by what he expects will be six new youth firefighters and three returning senior members.
“Both proposals would benefit the department and the individuals involved.”
Coucil approved the proposal, and Rempel said he’s all fired up to put the plan in motion.
“Now that we have the authority to go ahead with that, we’re hoping to start the youth program in April/May,” he said.