Community

Volunteering at the Hall

Tyler O
Tyler O'Connell opens up about training procedures for volunteer firefighters during an open house at The Harrison Hot Springs Fire Department.
— image credit: Erin Knutson

They do it all, volunteering their time, and a lot goes in to what they do. It’s not just putting on a suit, looking good and driving in a fancy truck, though, that’s part of it.

The Observer recently had a chance to stop in and chat with a few of the men and women who spend a good chunk of their time at the fire hall in Harrison Hot Springs.

A good portion of their lives is spent away from families, loved ones, celebrations, anniversaries, and missed birthdays, while the rest of us are living it up.

The Harrison Hot Springs Fire Department invited The Observer to tour their facility during an open house.

While browsing the hall, it was easy to imagine members spending time in classes, at dinners and enjoying hearty friendships, while developing a sense of duty as they volunteer countless hours in the protection of others.

The fire hall boasts fire trucks and an assortment of equipment.

In plain view were fire axes, fire retardant suits, gloves, hats, dummies, and white boards for instruction, where they spend hours in the classroom before they ever arrive on scene.

Nothing is inexpensive, especially their lives, which they put on the line all the time.

One volunteer was on hand to answer what goes into it all, and he graciously opened up about his volunteer training, a right of passage, that all members must undertake before they can officially go out on a call.

What would inspire someone to go into this type of volunteerism?

Drumming up Hollywood images from movies like Backdraft (a movie rife with heroic bravado that was made in the early 90’s) are over the top, according to most who work in the field, with fire fighters encouraged to always keep safety a priority over pummeling into a burning building to save the day.

Here’s what volunteer fire fighter Tyler O’Connell had to say.

O’Connell started with The Harrison Fire Department in the junior program when he was just 16 years old.

“We weren’t allowed to go into the trucks until we were 18,” he recalls. “I did four years here and then went to Abbotsford Auxiliary for two years and now I’m back.”

He describes the ability of volunteers to train at their own discretion as an advantage, one where they are given the opportunity to learn the playbook.

The province brought in a new a playbook. It describes a set of guidelines that everybody has to learn to qualify as a volunteer firefighter.

“It’s rewarding, it’s fun, and it keeps you active and sharp. We get together and have lots of different camaraderie with the guys at the hall — we hang out and make new friendships while learning new skills at the same time.”

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