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Volunteer firefighting a natural fit for dairy farmers

Dairy farmers are such a natural fit for volunteer firefighting that four currently serve with the Rosedale fire hall.

Dairy farmers are such a natural fit for volunteer firefighting that four currently serve with the Rosedale fire hall.

As a 22-year-old young man on his parent’s dairy farm back in 1978, Carey Prinse heard Rosedale’s volunteer fire department needed members. He was looking for a way to get involved in the community, so he joined up.

Today, he is the third consecutive dairy farmer to act as Brigade Chief for the local hall, which is now part of the larger Chilliwack Fire Department. It’s members are paid on-call rather than strictly volunteer; Prinse has been the hall’s chief for 12 years.

Carey in truck

“I felt I should be giving back something, and I heard they needed firefighters,” he says of his initial decision to volunteer. “Everyone should give something back to their community. If everyone does their part it will be a better community.”

Dairy farmers tend to be available locally during the day while other volunteers are working in the city and may not be able to attend a call, and their experience with vehicles and equipment on the farm translates to driving fire trucks, using pumps and saws, and other equipment. Often working alone on the farm, they also enjoy the community that comes with being part of the department.

“I’ve enjoyed the camaraderie. The firehall is like a second family to us,” Prinse says. “We’re all in there for each other, working as a team.”

Today, as part of the six-hall Chilliwack Fire Department, the Rosedale Hall firefighters fight fewer structure fires than they used to, more often getting called out to vehicle accidents and medical emergencies. They also handle traffic control and other duties in emergencies such as windstorms that knock down power lines.

As Battalion Chief, Prinse oversees the hall’s response to all calls as well as the training of new members by training officers, stepping in to train directly when one of those officers is unavailable to attend their regular Monday evening practices. He also coordinates activities with the larger Chilliwack department, making sure the hall has the equipment and support it needs.

Carey Prinse and cow

Back at the 80-acre farm, Prinse and his family have about 75 milking cows. He’s a second-generation farmer, having grown up on a nearby dairy farm his parents operated. He’s also an elder at his church and was a 4H leader for 20 years, volunteering to help young people learn about speaking in public, raising animals, and getting them ready for showing at local fairs – the club’s motto ‘learn to do by doing’ appeals to him. He’s donated blood more than 180 times.

“None of this would be possible without the support of my wife Joan and our family,” he added. “A strong community needs support from everybody.”

For more information on BC Dairy farms, click here.

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