Brady Bloomer, maintenance operator with the Lake Country Fire Department, at the Oyama hall Sept. 29, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Brady Bloomer, maintenance operator with the Lake Country Fire Department, at the Oyama hall Sept. 29, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Answering the call: Oyama fire hall in need of paid-on-call firefighters

The hall is currently at half of its full complement of 22 firefighters, and seeking new recruits

The Lake Country Fire Department is looking for residents to answer the call and fill its Oyama hall.

The fire department is seeking to recruit up to 11 paid-on-call firefighters for the hall located on the isthmus between Kalamalka and Wood lakes, which is currently at about half of its full complement of 22 firefighters.

Deputy Fire Chief Brent Penner says the hall had been full for many years, with some recently retired members having stayed for more than two decades — far longer than is typical for a volunteer firefighter.

“What happens is as people decide to retire and leave the service, a lot of times there’s that full change-out all at once and that’s kind of been occurring over the last few years with long-serving members of the hall,” Penner said. “It’s time for a new group to come up an lead the charge.”

Lake Country’s four wards are covered by its three fire halls in Winfield, Oyama and Carr’s Landing, which work as one coordinated team. Penner says the halls in Winfield and Carr’s Landing are currently fully staffed.

In the small community, firefighting is a case of neighbours helping neighbours.

“It’s really neighbours that are helping provide the support network to protect our community and keep our community safe,” Penner said. “And the team is dynamic and dedicated, and they really enjoy each other’s company and camaraderie.”

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Hard work and dedication are integral to the job, and as Penner explains, the same qualifications are required for becoming a paid-on-call firefighter as for those applying at a full-time hall. That means completing professional firefighter accreditation and training. The fire department offers that training at no cost through the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

Once recruits have completed their basic training, they’ll need to maintain their skills by attending weekly practice nights.

A wide range of skills are needed at the hall, which is the only hall in the district with marine rescue as part of its main responsibilities. In the winter, the hall operates an ice rescue team servicing the Kalamalka, Wood and Duck lakes.

Recruits will be under the wing of Training Officer Ryan Murdain, a firefighter with the Lake Country department for eight years. He first joined the team to better connect with and protect his home community.

When on-call, he enjoys the feeling of knowing his community is safe — because if not, he would be there.

For Murdain, having new people join the team is invigorating. He recalled an incident on Sept. 28 in which a van being transported by a tow truck caught fire on the highway. It was the first time responding to a car fire for one new member.

“They were having the best day of their life,” he said. “That’s one of the things I look forward to most with a new batch of recruits coming through, is I get to share those firsts with people.”

The recruiting process is being taken more slowly this year as fire departments follow direction from Dr. Bonnie Henry on how best to conduct training amid COVID-19.

“We’re just trying to keep all of our groups small, keep our bubbles managed, and bring in new people right now,” Penner said.

Those interested in registering for a volunteer paid-on-call firefighter position can find more information and an application form at lakecountry.bc.ca.

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Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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