Tuesday is the last day of a recruitment drive for paid-on-call firefighters in the Chilliwack area.
Some who answer the call are looking for a career in fighting fires, but others are just looking for a challenging way to give back to their community.
Take Paul Liddle, for instance, a 53-year-old Ryder Lake resident who drives a school bus.
Three years ago he decided to become a paid-on-call firefighter to protect lives and property in the Ryder Lake area.
When he turned 50, he said, he was struck by the thought that “so many of our community services are dependent on volunteers.”
“But, so far, my life had been all about me,” he said. “If everybody was like me, we wouldn’t have community services … not even an effective firefighting force.”
“It was about time I did something about it,” he decided.
Liddle knew Ryder Lake needed firefighters, and when he saw a recruitment sign, he knew what that “something” was.
But would they want a 50-year-old guy, in good physical condition, but not one of those muscular young men he’d seen on firefighter calendars?
“I was 50 years old,” Liddle said. “I might be in good shape for a 50-year-old, but I couldn’t compete with that.”
Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Ullyot said the fire department can “train anybody with a good attitude” and the recruitment drive is on for men and women 19 years or older to become paid-on-call firefighters.
There is a fitness test that includes a two-mile run.
“You don’t have to sprint – but you do have to finish it,” Liddle said.
He recalled his run, and another older recruit who was overtaken and passed – twice – by a younger recruit.
“He must have set a record,” Liddle said, but after completing the run the young recruit teamed up with the slowest guy struggling around the track and started running alongside him to encourage him on.
“This young guy now is on the career staff – that’s the kind of people the fire department wants,” he said.
In fact, team spirit is the most remarkable thing Liddle has seen in his three years with the fire department.
“I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said. “I’m just amazed by the amount of team spirit. Everybody cares about everybody else.”
You don’t have to give up your day-job to be a paid-on-call firefighter – but you do need to respond to a fire call “when you reasonably can,” he said.
Like anyone would if they saw a neighbour’s house on fire.
“The fire department is all about community,” he said.
For more information, call Captain Rick Meeres at 604-792-8713 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org