With its largest roster since the 1990’s and training opportunities abounding, the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade is growing strong and basking in the community’s support. (Andrew Bailey - Photo)

Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade basking in local support

”Firefighting is one of the world’s most honored but dangerous occupations.”

At 23 members, the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade is celebrating its largest roster since the 1990’s and has doubled in size since 2009’s crew of 12.

“Now that people are seeing what we’re doing in the training aspect, they’re really interested and we’ve done really well with recruiting,” the brigade’s fire chief Ted Eeftink told the Westerly News.

“That’s the max for us right now because we’ve run out of space to put members, but we would like to have 30 members eventually. That’s our goal and we’re working towards that.”

The brigade responded to 116 emergency call outs last year and 105 so far in 2017, according to Ucluelet’s emergency and environmental services manager Karla Robison.

“Firefighting is one of the world’s most honored but dangerous occupations. When there is an emergency in the community, the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade is the first on the scene,” Robison said.

She added the brigade responds to fires, motor vehicle accidents, hazardous material incidents, rescue operations, medical emergencies and a variety of other emergency events.

“The District of Ucluelet appreciates the Officers for their advanced level of decision-making authority and leadership, and for members ongoing commitment for performing volunteer firefighter services. It is truly amazing the volunteer time and effort of each Officer and Member, and the support provided by family members to help make the community of Ucluelet safer. It is a great honour to have the opportunity to support administrative matters for the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade.”

Eeeftink will celebrate his 25th year with the brigade this November and said he’s enjoyed watching the team’s comradery and capabilities strengthen.

“It’s used to be kind of an old boys club and now we’re actually a really fine tuned crew. We help out everywhere and it’s awesome. It’s a really good feeling and that’s why I still enjoy being there,” he said

“I’ve got to commend the guys. For volunteers, they’re putting in a lot of time and effort into the training part to continue the service that they’re giving the district.”

The brigade has been working with BC Emergency Health Services to assist local paramedics on first responder calls since 2013 and has boosted its training since 2009 with members achieving Level 1 and Level 2 National Fire Protection Association certifications. The district budgets around $22,000 a year for the brigade’s training and Eeftink said that money is capitalized on in full thanks to in-house training offcer and brigade member Alan Anderson.

“He puts in a tremendous amount of volunteer time to put training sessions together,” Eeftink said of Anderson. “He’s saving the fire brigade, and the district, a ton of money because the effort he’s putting into doing all the training himself.”

He added training is important to keep community members and firefighters safe when emergencies strike.

“The time and commitment that these guys have put in to become Level 1, Level 2 firefighters is just phenomenal. I don’t think they’re are too many other volunteer brigades or communities that have this level of experience,” he said. “We’re doing the correct training to keep everybody safe at a fire scene or a motor vehicle incident or even when we help the [paramedics],” he said. “All that training is paid for and supplied to the district of Ucluelet which is just phenomenal for a volunteer group.”

He said the community’s support of the brigade is “huge,” and that his team has earned the sterling reputation it enjoys.

“The guys are always very conscientious about what’s going on out there,” he said. “I feel like we’re supported by the community 100 per cent and that’s just awesome.”

He added Robison supports the brigade “in a big way,” and has boosted the crew’s already mutually-beneficial relationship with the district since becoming Ucluelet’s emergency and environmental services manager in 2012.

“She supports the whole brigade in whatever aspect we need,” he said. “Whenever I ask for something, she’s always there to help me out. She’s a big part of us and I’d like to thank her for that.”

He added positive and effective communication between the brigade and the district office is vital.

“The communication with the district is just phenomenal. Right now it’s in a really good place and we need that,” he said. “It makes things run really smooth. Things are going really well because we have an open communication with the district office and having Karla there makes it even better.”

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