'You have to want to help the public': Glace Bay fire department seeks volunteers

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Chief John Chant of the Glace Bay volunteer fire department says it takes heart and a giving spirit to volunteer as a firefighter. (George Mortimer/CBC - image credit)
Chief John Chant of the Glace Bay volunteer fire department says it takes heart and a giving spirit to volunteer as a firefighter. (George Mortimer/CBC - image credit)

A fire department in Cape Breton is extending its recruitment period for four volunteer positions, saying the pandemic has made it more difficult to enrol members.

Chief John Chant, a 27-year veteran of Glace Bay's fire service, said the department launched its membership campaign earlier this year and will accept applications until April 5.

"Usually we run it for 30 days and we have enough applications to start the process, but due to COVID and some of the medical criteria we have, it's hard for people to get a medical slip from a doctor now and get a physical," he said.

The fire department on Reserve Street currently has 40 volunteers along with career staff.

The Glace Bay volunteer fire department provides extensive training to new members.
The Glace Bay volunteer fire department provides extensive training to new members.

Chant said he highly recommends volunteer service, even though it means running into a burning building when other people are running out.

"It has to be something that's in your heart and soul," said Chant. "You have to want to help the public, you have to want to get out of bed at 3 o'clock in the morning when you've got to work at 8 o'clock in the morning the next day. Someone who doesn't mind giving of themselves."

Chant said it's the role of a firefighter to protect someone's property while staying as safe as possible in a dangerous situation.

But not every call is an adrenaline rush.

The fire station on Reserve Street is accepting applications until April 5.
The fire station on Reserve Street is accepting applications until April 5.

Some are unusual, like a cat stuck in a wall, said Chant.

"We've done animals over cliffs, we've done changing batteries for elderly people," he said. "Sometimes people call 911 and we go into their house and solve problems for them very quickly, but for them, it was the worst day of their life."

Chant said the successful applicants will go through an extensive, six-month program that includes learning from a textbook as well as on-the-job training.

"It's everywhere from fire behaviour to how to put a ladder up and drag a hose," he said. "It's very vigorous and it's very educational."

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