The Squamish Fire Rescue will conduct a recruitment drive to induct as many as 20 new volunteers in the fire department, Tom Easterbrook, the fire chief, told Squamish council during the regular council meeting on Tuesday, Sept.21.
The recruitment drive will start in the first week of October, Mike Adams, the deputy fire chief, added. The recruitment plan was announced to Squamish council in a report on the changes occurring within Squamish Fire Rescue.
Easterbrook also said Squamish Fire Rescue will soon commence an internal review of the department through an audit that was recently developed by the Office of the Fire Commissioner and B.C. Associations of Fire Chiefs.
The audit will look at different aspects of the department and will be available to the public and the media.
"This audit will focus in particular on areas of regulatory compliance, fire service standards, and best practices. The results of the audit will be used to develop further measures to ensure we are meeting regulatory and other applicable standards," he said.
The report presented by the fire department to council was a measure of progress in three internal areas of the fire department: administrative services, training and staff development, and Operations and Emergency Rescue.
Providing the council with a list of achievement under these three subheadings, the fire chief said the morale in the Squamish Fire Rescue has never been higher.
"Volunteer firefighters came up to me and said, we have had more positive changes in the last nine months than the past 10 years," Easterbrook said.
Some of these achievements, Easterbrook said, included extensive training in the area of emergency scenes, training for volunteer and career firefighters, a new project whereby career staff responds to first responder medical incidents during regular working hours and developing pre-fire plans for target hazards.
Besides these, he said the Squamish Fire Rescue conducted promotional processes for two volunteer captain positions and one volunteer lieutenant position.
The Squamish Fire Rescue, he also added, has developed a website for communicating more effectively with staff.
"The site contains up to date information on firefighter training reference material, fire rescue plans and promotional posting," he said.
The Squamish Fire Rescue will soon ask for funding from the council to hire a consultant to draft a Fire Service Master Plan that will enable the fire department to meet the emergency service needs of the Squamish citizens as the town evolves with new developments.
"A comprehensive Fire Service Master Plan will guide council and fire department in decision making and direction setting for the future," Easterbrook said.
The fire chief, along with councillors, showered praise on the volunteer firefighters.
"Our volunteer firefighters give the citizens of Squamish a high level of protection at a low cost when compared to the costs of a fully career fire department. Volunteer firefighters give up hundreds of hours each year responding to emergencies and conducting training exercises," the fire chief said.
He said because of the training provided to the volunteers, they are now more "empowered" to respond effectively during emergency situations.
Acting Mayor Corrine Lonsdale said the fire safety of the community was of utmost importance to the Squamish council and that volunteer firefighters were providing an exceptional service to the community.
CAO Kevin Ramsay said the fire department had prepared this report a few weeks ago, but the council meeting on Sept. 21 was the first time it was brought before the public.