More Diversity Applicants Needed For Firefighting Services

Mission Fire Rescue Service would like to see more South Asians apply and currently don’t have any members that speak Punjabi. They have had Punjabi paid on call members in the past. Positions are opening up in the near future for paid on call.

By Ken Herar

Excitment, Teamwork, Courage and Service!

Those were some of my thoughts that come to my mind after going on a ride along with the Mission Fire Rescue Service, earlier this week. This is my first time going out with the fire service and I didn’t really know what to expect, but I did receive an educational workshop like no other. I had the opportunity to put on all their gear:  boots, gloves, hats feeling like I was just part of the team.

We went over different scenarios feeling fully protected from any harm.  I had the honour of riding with Capt Griffith crew during the first half and then Capt Taylor’s platoon for the remainder of the day. If there are no calls for service, but the team kept busy around the hall with training exercises, cleaning and greeting the public with fire prevention education. There is never a dull moment.  There are three shifts of career firefighters that service our community 24/hrs a day and paid on call supports them, if needed.  Last year, there were 2.200 calls for service and the trends are they are getting busier with a another hall being proposed in the Cedar Valley area in the next 3-5 years, due to the population growth.

The purpose of this experience was to highlight and attract more diversity to our local firefighting dept. Mission has a fine and growing department, who are passionate about their work. They encourage all applicants from all backgrounds, including more females to apply.

Currently, they have one career member being Capt Griffith and two paid on call females. They would like to see more South Asians apply and currently don’t have any members that speak Punjabi. They have had Punjabi paid on call members in the past. Positions are opening up in the near future for paid on call.

Captain Taylor encourages people, who may be interested to drop by and speak with members at the hall. Fire Chief Dale UnRau said, “encourages people to apply from all backgrounds and the department should be a reflection of the community it serves. That’s our goal.”

Many visible minorities overlook firefighting as a career. Many gear themselves toward law enforcement careers like corrections, customs and policing before considering firefighting. A local study group in Abbotsford  was formed to find out why minorities don’t pursue the fire service. The answer they found was many believe that firefighting is volunteer. There seems to be a misconception about the profession. There are career firefighters and auxiliary members, which are paid positions. They are currently 72 career and 148 auxiliary members serving Abbotsford. Their benefits and salaries are equivalent to law enforcement agencies.

Firefighting is not about dollars it’s about making a difference. Abbotsford Fire-Rescue Service are trying to reach out to the various ethnic communities to promote firefighting as a career. Diversity on the service is valuable because language barriers can be an issue.

For example, if firefighters get called to a house fire residents can’t speak English you may have a problem. In this profession seconds matter and you have to work fast.

Kulbir Grewal, was part of the 2006 recruit class and the first Punjabi Canadian career member hired by Abbotsford Fire/Rescue Service.

Grewal said: “I see the importance that diversity plays within that Service. In responding to calls it is essential that we all work as a team. Every person in that team brings something important to each call. Some bring their life experiences, some bring their education, and others bring their cultural upbringing. For instance, I am a Punjabi speaking Indo-Canadian male who can assist with the large percentage of Punjabi speaking citizens in Abbotsford.”

Ken “Kulwinder” Herar is a Mission-based writer and a winner of the champions of diversity award for his columns in the LINK newspaper and other Fraser Valley publications. Herar can be reached at kenherar@gmail.com or view his blog at http://www.kenherar.blogspot.com

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