Apprenticeship program keeps firefighter recruits in K-Country

A new firefighter apprenticeship program is starting to pay off, according to Kananaskis Emergency Services.

The initiative provides housing and a job at a nearby resort while recruits train to be firefighters. 

"We are now able to bring in people and retain people based on the program that we're providing," said Fire Chief Gary Robertson.

He says it provides a unique combination of firefighter training and work experience and means a stable roster of firefighters in a resort-based community where recruitment can be a challenge.

"When they first start they go through about three months — about a hundred hours — of training before they're eligible to respond on a call," said Robertson.

"And then they start going on responses, shadowing somebody as they build their experience and as they get more training and then to the point where they're responding as full members of the team."

Justin Fehr is part of the first group of graduates.

"Sometimes we get a call three in the morning and I'll have to work at the hotel 8 a.m. the next day," he said. "Whenever they need us, I kind of go in."

Fehr plans to pursue a firefighting career somewhere, but has opted, along with his classmates, to stay in K-Country for now.

"I love it. I love the location. I love the people who work here. They've trained me to be who I am today," he said.

The chief and graduates say a provincially funded emergency centre — expected to open next year — will further enhance training and public safety.

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