The old adage of having to walk a mile in someone’s shoes in order to understand their reality certainly held true one day this past July. I found myself, with other Councilors and senior staff, dressed in full firefighting gear, undertaking a number of training exercises. The purpose? To get a glimpse of what it is that our volunteer and career fire fighters do for our community.
On that excruciatingly hot day, with an air pack on my back and a mask on my face, I struggled under the weight of all the gear. In order to mimic the experience of working one’s way through a smoke filled room, participants’ face masks were blacked out. Then, to make it really interesting, I was given a hose and had to drag that cumbersome load through an obstacle course on my knees. At 66 years of age, my adrenaline was high, I was feeling both claustrophobic and disoriented, and I couldn’t help wishing for the good old days of youth!
This is the kind of training that our volunteer and career fire fighters commit to on a weekly basis at the Creston fire hall and at our regional fire training centre; an amenity which serves to benefit all of the fire departments in our valley. At the training centre, fire fighters from Riondel to Yahk – including Creston, Wynndel, Canyon-Lister and West Creston – have access to enhanced training opportunities which wouldn’t be possible without the commitment of the Fire Fighters Society, grants and community donations. This fire training center is located just west of Highway 21 on Davis Road and as ongoing fund-raising occurs, and grants and donations are received, additional training equipment and structures will be added to the centre’s inventory.
Ensuring that our fire fighters are adequately trained is only one key part of the emergency response puzzle. Throughout the valley, departments are struggling to attract and retain adequate numbers of volunteers. And signing up is only the beginning of what it takes to become a firefighter. It takes a minimum of three years for an individual to become fully competent at a fire scene. An additional two years is required to be able to serve in any kind of supervisory capacity. Becoming a firefighter certainly is not a short term commitment that is entered into lightly; requiring a significant time commitment, an evolving skillset and physical fitness.
Our volunteer fire fighters are an invaluable resource that this community needs to keep investing in. For anyone interested in signing up as a volunteer, check out the recruitment video on the Town’s website.
This is my 49th article, originally published in the October 2013 edition of I Love Creston.