Fire Chief Terry Jones tells Global News Peterborough there have been two intakes of 30 recruits each this year.
“We had 30, but one had to drop out, and we’re in the process of another 30 that started on Sept. 12. We should very closely meet that target by the end of the year. We’ll continue again next year with however many recruits we’ll need,” Jones said.
Jones said the recruitment numbers dwindled during the pandemic, with a need to revamp the training program due to certification changes at the provincial level, an inability to train due to COVID-19 and the normal retirements and relocations of some volunteers.
The City of Kawartha Lakes uses a hybrid fire service — there are 19 stations in the municipality and 18 are made up entirely of volunteers, making the Lindsay station the only full-time station.
There are 320 volunteers throughout the City of Kawartha Lakes.
“Our numbers did drop, but due to the aggressive campaign this year, we’re bringing those numbers back up to where they need to be,” Jones added.
“In some departments, we like to maintain a minimum of 15 volunteers with a maximum in the 20 range. We did have several departments that were below the 15. A lot of that is also in regards to we have a large geographical area with sparse populations in those communities. Even though we lost some during COVID, we still have an issue recruiting numbers in some departments.”
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Jones says all fire calls are responded to by three stations to give the number of firefighters on-scene that are required.
In January, an independent review of the service was presented to council.
It highlighted the shortage of volunteer firefighters in the municipality, including the impact on response times.
The report stated, “a course correction is needed – without delay.”
Jones said once they put the call out for the aggressive campaign to bring on more volunteers, the service had a good response from residents.
Most of those residents volunteer their time in addition to working a normal job.
“I have a huge passion for fire services and what they do. Huge respect for that. It was an opportunity for me to give back to my community,” said Shawn Morey, a volunteer firefighter from the 2021 recruitment class.
Morey, a former golf professional, is also the executive director for the Peterborough Humane Society.
He’s based out of Fire Station 6 in the former Emily Township.
He says that volunteering was “the best decision I’ve made.”
“My father was also a volunteer firefighter when I was a child. So, that’s always been a part of my life. I saw the pride he had when he was a volunteer doing what he did. It was always something I wanted to do, just finally had the opportunity to do it,” Morey said.
The City of Kawartha Lakes will be conducting another recruitment intake starting in February 2023.
Applicants can go to the municipality’s fire department website for more information.