Northern Sunrise needs more firefighters

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

The director of Northern Sunrise County protec- tive services Dave Leblanc is looking for some determined, courageous, community-oriented volunteers to join his team.
To bring the fire halls to adequate staffing levels, Leblanc says they are looking for six more members for St. Isidore Hall, four in Harmon Valley, and four at Nampa.
“What if you or a loved one called for help, and there was no one available to respond?” Leblanc asks, responding to why volunteering is so important.
“Fire department resources are requested by residents when they are in need. We, Northern Sunrise County Protective Services (NSCPS), are lucky to have a very dedicated roster of responders willing to respond when their neighbours call 911.”
Leblanc says although they have a dedicated team, the number of available responders is dependent on the time of day, because many of the current firefighters work full time and are not always available.
“There are times where the fire department may respond with very few firefighters,” he says.
“Skills learned by our firefighters not only help when responding to calls but also help at work and home. Training is free, such as fire extinguishers, First Aid, air brakes and other courses.”
Leblanc asks any willing and able resident to answer the recruitment plea and help their neighbours by becoming a paid on-call firefighter with any of the Northern Sunrise fire stations.
Leblanc says in 2022 the St. Isidore fire hall responded to 41 incidents, the Nampa fire hall to 34 incidents, and the Harmon Valley fire hall to 5 incidents.
“In most cases, calls range from 1-2 hours in duration,” Leblanc says. “Firefighters at longer calls will have access to a ride back to the hall, if they must leave before the call is completed.”
Leblanc has been with the team for well over a decade and he says that dedication is one of the key characteristics that the team looks for in new members.
“Firefighters should be able to attend a minimum of two fire practices a week (held on Monday evenings) and respond as much as possible,” he says.
“We do have an auxiliary firefighter program for those who can only commit to four hours of training a month and only want to help with tasks such as traffic control, equipment clean up and restocking the trucks. During the recruitment process, firefighters are asked to submit a driver’s abstract as well as a criminal record check to ensure public safety, which is supplied by the County.”
Leblanc explains to facilitate a speedy response to emergencies, NSCPS paid-on-call firefighters must reside within Northern Sunrise County or the Village of Nampa.
“Fire departments are requested to assist emergency medical services (EMS) calls, through the Medical Co-Responders program,” he says.
“The Government of Alberta is the authority having jurisdiction over medical care within the province. Currently, NSCPS will respond to assist EMS for incidents where immediate life saving intervention is required; examples of these are heart attacks, severe choking, and allergic reactions.”
He adds the current response model doesn’t provide reimbursement to fire departments for their responses but does provide grants for medical and training equipment and supplies. Leblanc explains the number of calls can change from year to year, so firefighters have to be ready for all sorts of emergency factors.
“Call volumes can fluctuate due to numerous factors such as drought (increase in outdoor fires), road conditions (increased motor vehicle collisions), and industrial projects (increased temporary population, traffic, and activity can result in increase of different types of incidents),” he says.
“We have seen a reduction of specific incidents due to fire and safety prevention programs, as well as highway widening projects. Based on trends, we do not see any significant increases that cause concern.”
The firefighters will also be recognized soon for their volunteerism with an awards night on Feb. 3.
“To be a firefighter is to be able to make a difference in someone’s life in their times of need,” he says.
“Just being there, is something that a person will remember for a long time. You become part of a global family of firefighters and will be welcomed at any fire hall for a visit or if you need help anywhere in the world.”

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