Training new members


Kevan Ramsden soaks himself and those around him while testing the different hose settings.
Training Hard: Work Experience Program member Kevan Ramsden mans the hose during a training exercise in early June. See complete photo album here.

With fewer visitors to the community, the shoulder season is a perfect time for advancing the training of Sun Peaks Fire Rescue (SPFR) members according to chief Colin Cannon.

Ten community members took the Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) certification course, which was held in the first week of May. Seven people were first timers, two of which were not SPFR members but work for ski patrol.

It was the first time the course was instructed by a volunteer member of SPFR. In the past one of the full-time firefighters taught the course, but this year volunteer lieutenant Stew Howell provided the training.

“It’s completely taught in house through our volunteer ranks now. That’s a huge step for us,” said SPFR training officer Luke Harrison.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of our strongest years.

Now, nearly three quarters of SPFR members have an EMR certificate and seven members have earned an EMR license, which is obtained through a series of exams following the certification course, according to Harrison.

“Sun Peaks is definitely an anomaly as far as a volunteer fire department goes. Most (volunteer) fire departments don’t train any medical or they don’t even respond to medical emergencies, just strictly firefighting,” Harrison said. “Given our location being so far away from a hospital and the time for ambulance is the reason we have an EMR program here. It’s definitely above and beyond your average fire hall.”

Eight volunteer firefighters also took the emergency vehicle operators course from May 30 to June 3, which was instructed by volunteer firefighter Mike Billheimer. The course focused on how to drive the fire trucks as well as using the hoses and pumps.

With fewer traffic throughout the village during the shoulder season, one third of SPFR volunteers were able to take part in the training.

“It’s a little bit quieter for everyone, not only the visitors but for all our crew,” Cannon said. “This is a time where everyone can be there so we like to take full advantage of it.”

SPFR also introduced the three members of this year’s Work Experience Program (WEP). Sun Peaks ski patroller Kevan Ramsden, Mat Claydon of Cambridge, Ont. and Kyle Labonte of St. Catherine’s, Ont. have joined the department for the six month program.

“We had lots of excellent applications this year and everybody who came through this year is already coming in with more than the usual amount of experience, especially on the medical side,” Harrison said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of our strongest years.”

The three WEP members are on duty for a minimum of four nights per week and receive training, experience in firefighting and community engagement to help in their pursuit to become career firefighters.

Harrison said three out of every four WEP members have gone on to be hired as a career firefighter, and the commitment level they display in Sun Peaks increases morale for the entire department.

“It’s kind of contagious and it’s successful,” said Harrison, a WEP member himself five years ago. “The more these guys work hard and put into it, the better chances of them getting a job in such a competitive field.

“Every year it seems to elevate the department as a whole.”