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Volunteer firefighters needed in all areas around Prince George

New recruits always needed to help protect areas in regional district not supported by Prince George Fire Rescue

Being a volunteer firefighter runs in the family for Melanie Perrin.

The seed was planted nearly four decades ago when her dad Bruce Perrin joined the department in Beaverly and his influence as the captain of the force made her want to sign up as soon as she reached the age of 18.

The idea of helping somebody survive what is likely the worst day of their lives is what keeps her coming back and she’s been part of the Beaverly Volunteer Fire Department for 30 years.

Volunteer fire departments are made up of men and women from all walks of life who have a desire to serve their community. The department trains volunteers how to fight fires safely and operate and maintain firefighting equipment.

Departments try to maintain a roster of at least 25 volunteers who might or not be available to respond to emergency calls at any one time. Those who are on duty wear pagers to receive calls to respond to fires, medical emergencies and highway accident rescues.

“We’re always in need of volunteers,” said Perrin manager of public safety for the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George. “The requirement on training set by the province of B.C. is not a light commitment and so it is a challenge to keep the rosters on those volunteer fire departments to a level where we need them to be."

Volunteer departments serve residential areas on the outskirts of the city in areas not served by Prince George Fire Rescue. The regional district supports departments - Beaverly, Buckhorn, Bear Lake, Ferndale/Tabor, Hixon, Ness Lake, Pineview, Pilot Mountain, Shell-Glen, Red Rock/Stoner, Salmon Valley, McBride & District, and Valemount & District. All are supported by taxation from property owners in the area in which they serve.

“Every one of them could use more volunteers," said Perrin.

Not everybody wants to be an active firefighter and each department requires people to fill administrative roles, check and repair equipment or be instructors. A lot of volunteers are older retired people and Perrin says it’s critical to also get younger people to handle the more labour-intensive tasks such as operating a fire hose or carrying heavy equipment.

“A house on fire out in Pineview is no different than a house on fire in Prince George - you still need the same physically fit people, as well knowledgeable and experienced people,” said Perrin.

Crews gather for weekly practice sessions that usually last about two hours. It is a requirement for each volunteer in the hall to reside in that particular fire protection area. But that doesn’t prevent sharing of resources to help a neighbouring department. That happened last week when the Beaverly department sent firefighters and equipment to McBride to help fight the Teare Creek wildfire.

The RDFFG also backs three rescue agencies – Area D Rescue, Chilako/Nechako Rescue and Valemount and District Road Rescue.

If you are interested in getting involved, the regional district website provides contact information for each of the departments.