The Whitecourt Fire Department needs you. In 2022, the local squad needs eight firefighters to join the tight-knit department of community heroes. Deputy Fire Chief Taya Green said they would get recruits rolling by mid-January. They are accepting applications until January 6, and the forms are on the Town of Whitecourt website (Under Services, then Public Safety, and then Fire Department).
Those interested must be at least 18 years of age, have a high school diploma or equivalent, at least a class five driver's license, and a driver's abstract with seven or fewer demerits. Applicants must be able to communicate fluently in English, be physically fit and obtain medical clearance to perform the job's tasks. Living within the response area is also a must (Whitecourt, Woodlands County), as is committing to the regular training on Tuesday nights and responding to emergencies.
"We recruit based on need. We have 42 firefighter positions, and we only recruit when we need to fill any of those positions," explained Green. She said people move, or their lives change, and the department doesn't fit them anymore. "Many of our firefighters go onto full-time firefighting careers," said Green. The last recruitment was January 2021, but it can sometimes be years before recruiting again.
Upon applying to join, candidates will go through an interview process. Unlike the movies, would-be firefighters are not subjected to a rigorous timed trial to get on the department. "There are many departments that have a standard coming in, but we do a variety of things over the first six months to help educate people on where they need to be. Even very, very fit people have to do more than just specific job skills, and that doesn't necessarily come from going to the gym. Over six months, we introduce people to those things where they can test themselves and see where they need to build up. We do fitness things, but it's in a different way. It's about building on themselves. Some people will be good at one thing and maybe need to work on another thing, and that's hard to capture in just a pre-job requirement. We prefer helping teach people where they need to be."
After the initial interview and paperwork processes, candidates learn all about the department. "It's an introduction into the fire department. It's about who we are and what we are doing and giving them our rules, regulations, and policies to learn how we perform in the community. For the first three months, it's about training and learning the role of a firefighter, and then after we have a foundation, we build on that, and the firefighters are allowed to come to calls and start to put their skills to practice. At the end of six months, they are done their probationary period and then it's decided from there how firefighting fits for them and how they fit within the department," explained Green.
She said the current group is very diverse and that each person brings something unique to the department. "We are such a good team that we can capture people's skills and where they thrive the most and use that to fill the needs we have. It's really easy to fit in here." Being a team player and self-motivated are significant attributes to being a firefighter. "Everybody here is a volunteer. They have to want to do this role, and they have to continuously want to be improving and training for themselves because there's no one here that's going to tell them what they have to do. We are all part of a team, and that's why I think our department really works."
Along with self-motivation and being a team player, firefighters also need integrity and a moral compass. Green said that holding tight on confidential information is a must. Firefighters see and hear all kinds of things while on the job and cannot share details from those encounters. To remain non-judgemental support for community members, firefighters need a solid moral compass that aligns with the organization.
Those interested in joining the department family are encouraged to apply. "Along with finding the application on the town's website, we are also posting the link on the Fire Department Facebook page. Every week we will be putting out a different recruitment post until January 6," explained Green. Anyone with questions can call the department or email firstname.lastname@example.org. "I know lots of people have questions about how it works if they have a full-time job or a family, so if anyone has questions like that, definitely reach out to us. We want to help take down some of those barriers that people might have which might keep them from applying because they don't know the answer to their questions." The deadline to apply is January 6. The start date is set for January 18.
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press