Shortage of volunteer firefighters in rural Ottawa kickstarts hiring blitz

By Dani-Elle Dubé

Being a volunteer firefighter for Todd Horricks is nothing but “rewarding,” yet, there continues to be a shortage of volunteer firefighters in Ottawa’s rural areas.

That’s what Horricks, deputy chief of rural operations of Ottawa Fire Services (OFS), told The Rob Snow Show on Wednesday, May 18, adding that the shortage has prompted the OFS to engage in a rural recruiting initiative in an effort to fulfill some of the volunteer position.

The ideal candidate, Horricks says, is a highly motivated, dedicated and caring individual. Men, women, as well as new Canadians, are all welcome to apply.

“It’s not all just about fighting fires,” Horricks explained. “We do a lot of fundraising, community events, public education events — that’s our first line of defense, is to get out and educate the public on fire safety.”

OFS is also looking for people who have a desire to help.

“It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community, support the community you live and work in and, again, when you’re going out to help others, it’s a rewarding, gratifying experience,” Horricks said. “We see some tough calls but we also see some great things that happen out in the community.”

Being “mechanically inclined” is a great asset, but not a requirement upon hire, Horricks says.

There are programs available to those who need the training.

It is, however, a physically demanding job.

“Just the equipment you wear and the packs that you have — so what we ask of our new recruits, is we put them through a physical agility test, which is basically a physical test that simulates duties of a firefighter like breaching ceiling, swinging an axe, carrying equipment [and] dragging a mannequin a certain distance.”

The term volunteer, however, doesn’t mean an unpaid position, Horricks says. Technically, the term used for these positions is “paid-on-call.”

An hourly rate is paid that is approved by city council — this includes being paid for the training, among everything else.

Currently, a recruit or probationary firefighter, which is the first means to get a foot through the door, will pay $18.93 an hour.

Once someone has worked their way up to lieutenant and captain though — the higher end of the pay scale — then the hourly wage works out to be $29.59 an hour.

The only aspect of the job such fighters are not paid for are fundraising events.

From start to finish, the process of being hired as a volunteer firefighter for this position could take about eight months to a year, Horricks says.

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To hear the full interview with Todd Horricks on The Rob Snow Show, listen below.

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