According to Chief Craig Bowser, Sackville Fire & Rescue is slowly restoring its full roster of 43 volunteer firefighters.
During the public question period at town council last night, the chief gave an update on recruiting efforts that he first outlined in May.
“As alluded to back in May, we brought on and orientated five new recruits,” he said.
“We’re working with three new recruits as of today out of the five and we’re looking to bring on another four recruits within the next two to three weeks.”
Bowser added that if those recruits go through their orientation and six months of training and are accepted as members, that would bring the roster of volunteer firefighters to 42 out of 43.
Last April, Warktimes reported that Sackville’s fire service was still in a state of crisis a year after we first published reports about low morale caused by persistent bullying, favouritism and harassment that had led to the resignations of about 17 volunteer firefighters over a five-year period.
The town responded by hiring Montana Consulting Group of Moncton to conduct a workplace assessment and although the town says it is implementing Montana’s 20 recommendations, neither the consulting firm’s full report, nor its recommendations have ever been made public.
Meantime, there are concerns that too few volunteers are responding to emergency calls leaving fire trucks sometimes understaffed, slowing response times and potentially putting public safety and the safety of firefighters at risk.
According to the CTV investigative program W5, Sackville is not alone.
In the first program of its new season on October 1st, W5 reported that 83% of Canada’s firefighters are part-time volunteers and their dwindling numbers is putting public safety at risk.
The program’s main focus was on Ontario’s Kawartha Lakes region where slow response times have been blamed for three deaths in two separate fires, but W5 also talked to firefighters across the country.
CTV host Avery Haines visited Sackville in August where she interviewed Laura and Travis Thurston, firefighters who worry about the shortage of local volunteers.
“We work full time and we’re just on-call 24/7,” Laura said.
“We carry pagers with us and when it rings, our job, if we’re available, is to respond to the station and go to the call,” she added.
“I leave my job making money to go be a volunteer, it’s not that appealing to everybody, so I’m trying to raise awareness to somebody I guess to step in here and help out with our crisis,” Travis told Haines.
To watch the CTV program, click here.