SOUTH DUNDAS — In rural Ontario, firefighters are an essential part of the community. Fires, like all emergencies, are unpredictable — meaning firefighters need to have extensive training and skills. Structure, grass and forest, electrical or gas fires and others need to be extinguished using special techniques. Firefighters also answer emergency calls including motor vehicle accidents, medical emergencies, hazardous material incidents and natural disasters. Unlike their counterparts in urban centres, rural firefighters are considered volunteers or “on-call”.
This is equally true in South Dundas where, divided among the three stations, the Fire and Emergency Services Department answers an average of 180 calls per year. There is a misconception however that comes with the term Volunteer Firefighter. In fact, these men and women get paid for their training and each call they respond to, with a two-hour minimum and an insurance package due to the nature of the work. The volunteering aspect comes from the dedication of the firefighters to provide their time; many of whom work full-time jobs in addition to their service.
Becoming an on-call firefighter requires time and dedication. Recruits who successfully complete the application process must undergo a training program of roughly 40 hours before spending a year as a probationary firefighter. There is also regular training that members must attend to maintain and hone their skills. Some of South Dundas’ firefighters have noted that while at first it can be hard to find a balance between their work as a firefighter and the other aspects of their lives, with practice it all comes together. Not to mention the reward of helping the people in their community. Emergencies don’t wait so sometimes it means having understanding employers, and friends and family who recognize the importance of this work.
Our community members rely on firefighters to be the protectors of South Dundas in emergencies. So, it is a scary thought to think of what would happen if there weren’t enough firefighters to answer the call.
South Dundas currently has 59 firefighters along with Fire Chief Cameron Morehouse and assistant coordinator Chris Paulino; a full complement would be 66 members. The firefighters are allocated to one of three stations in Iroquois, Morrisburg and Williamsburg. Without new applicants and recruits to bring the crew back up to staff, South Dundas is left without a full force.
“Firefighters are an essential part of this community and now more than ever we need dedicated people to come forward and join us. Becoming a firefighter with South Dundas offers our members the chance to have a positive impact on their community and be the heroes to those in need of help,” said Chief Morehouse.
Applications are available online; once the Department has reached a full complement, applications will be saved on file for a later date. Visit https://southdundas.com/residents/fire-and-emergency-services/fire-department/ for more information. Will you answer the call?