Cortes Island Fire Department volunteers

The Cortes Island Fire Department trains new volunteers

Orientation for the new Cortes Island Fire Department volunteers began last month. 

The Recruits

Chief Mac Diver explains, “We had eight people come to that. Of  those eight we’ve had four continue through as recruits, which is a really nice group to allow us to maintain social distancing in our training quarters.”

They have to go through another two training days before becoming “rookies” and are given pagers to alert them when there are call-outs.  

Becoming Rookies

After that, they will start joining the regular firefighter training sessions on Tuesday evenings, from 7 to 9 PM.

In the interim, Diver has been teaching the recruits the basics on Wednesday evenings. 

“They will be training all year, before they are fully certified through Playbook standards. We do road rescues as well.  There is medical training, which hasn’t been happening since COVID began. That’s another course.  There is a CPR course which is a one day event, and we have been doing two week stints learning occupational first aid.” 

The Cortes Island Fire Department

The fire fighters are currently called out about 60 times a year, roughly half of which are structure, beach or brush fires. 

Diver said the number of call-outs could reach 120 to 150 when the fire fighters become first responders.

“That will likely happen after COVID hopefully gets under control. We can’t do it under COVID conditions,” said Diver.

The main responsibility falls upon the duty officer, who has a mandate to respond to every emergency.

That’s Mac Diver about 250 days of a typical year. When Diver is off duty, one of three fire officers stand in for him.  

About 98% volunteers

Cortes Island’s fire department is about 98% volunteer driven. Most of the firefighters are paid $10 an hour to train, but receive no compensation for responding in times of need. 

“There is a really big personal commitment that the firefighters put into the community, just being there when people are in need and dealing with stressful situations. These fire fighters are just out there through dedication to their community members. They have a desire to help. I’m sure they’d be happy to be compensated, but our tax base doesn’t account for that,” said Diver. 

The Cortes Island Fire Department will most likely be doing another recruitment drive in late September or early October this year.  

Links of Interest

This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative

Top photo credit: volunteers – courtesy Cortes Island Fire Department