Jeff Laine has attended some high profiles fires in the 10 years he’s been an auxiliary member of Nelson Fire Rescue.
The 44-year-old was part of the team that helped contain a major blaze at the Redfish Grill restaurant on Baker Street, and he was behind a hose spraying down the Kerr apartment block when it was engulfed in flame.
“When something really big is happening, that’s when the auxiliary gets called in,” said Laine, estimating he’s attended about a dozen fires over the years.
Nelson Fire Rescue is currently recruiting auxiliary firefighters after unusually high turnover this year, mostly due to members relocating for work, has left them with eight vacancies. Ideally the composite fire department would have 21 auxiliary members to assist its 12 career fire fighters.
Fire chief Simon Grympa said women and men interested in joining the auxiliary should be looking for a longterm commitment when they sign up. They need to be team oriented, physically fit, and able to stay calm in emergency situations. No fire fighting experience is necessary.
“We provide all the training they need to be certified as a Class 1 Fire Fighter,” Grympa said.
Gaining that accreditation through a school would cost around $7,000. Additionally, auxiliary fire fighters are provided with uniforms and turnout gear valued at $2,500 and paid $14/hour for the time they spend training or responding to calls.
“Given what we invest in training our auxiliary members, we really need them to stick around for at least a couple years,” Grympa said, though he does understand how getting a taste of fire fighting can make somebody want to do it full-time.
Many auxiliary members go on to jobs with fire departments in larger cities, and occasionally they can be promoted to a career position within Nelson Fire Rescue. Grypma himself started with the auxiliary in 1976 and moved into a career position two years later. His son, Leo, is the most recent hire of a career member and he worked six years as an auxiliary before his promotion.
“We don’t hire fire fighters very often, but when we do it’s always somebody from our auxiliary,” Grypma said.
There’s also a stable core of longtime auxiliary members who don’t want to be with the department full-time, like Peter Defoe who’s been on the auxiliary for around 35 years. Or Laine who is a heating and air conditioning mechanic by trade and said he got into fire fighting as a way to give back to his community.
“Being able to help people in an emergency situation and seeing their gratitude, it’s very rewarding,” he said, adding that he also likes the challenge and the urgency of the job.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to help out when you’re really needed and still have a day job.”
If you’re interested in becoming an auxiliary member of Nelson Fire Rescue, application forms are available at the fire hall (919 Ward Street) and on the City of Nelson website, nelson.ca. The deadline for applications is October 23.