Burton Volunteer Fire Department could close for lack of staff, chief says
By John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative ReporterHeadlines News fire hall firefighting
April 21, 2023, Burton, B.C. – A shortage of volunteers has the chief of the Burton Volunteer Fire Department worried about the future.
“We are very lucky that we haven’t been very busy in the last while,” says Brian Harrop. “Whether it’s people being more careful, you never know. But with the fire season coming, who knows what Mother Nature will deal us.”
Harrop posted to the Burton community Facebook page recently, warning local residents that the fire hall could shut down if the number of staff falls even further.
“The Burton fire department is approaching a dangerous and unacceptable low number of volunteers,” he wrote, noting that they had eight trained members, but four will soon be unavailable. “In an ideal world, we would have five members to call out, however we know we don’t live in an ideal world and depending on circumstances, we could be down to two to three members to respond to a call.
“We cannot operate with that number and in a worst-case scenario we may have to shut down the hall.”
Harrop told the Valley Voice it’s frustrating to see the shortage of volunteers, considering the community has nearly doubled in size in the decade since he became the fire chief.
“My frustration is, why do you move here – for the trees, fresh water, community living? Well, maybe you have to step up and help keep it the way you like it.”
Harrop says since he sent out his initial plea to the community, he’s had two people come forward expressing an interest in joining the fire department. But when you consider a full complement is 12-14 firefighters, and that it takes months or years to properly train up an emergency responder, the situation is tight for the community service.
While Harrop thinks it won’t come to the point where they have to shut down the fire department for lack of staff, he can only push it so far.
“If something happens and there’s only two or three of us, and there’s nothing we can do without jeopardizing ourselves – well, I won’t let my people be exposed to danger,” he says. “Then we’ll be going home.”
He said he hopes it won’t take a community disaster to spur interest in being a volunteer firefighter.
Harrop is looking for anyone over the age of 18, in good health, who can be available for one hour of training weekly. Volunteers also get a $3,000 tax deduction, which he hopes might attract some new recruits.
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