Greater Sudbury's volunteer firefighter complement grows by 64 in 2021 through recruitment drive

With 64 members added to the city’s complement of volunteer firefighters, “one of the largest recruitments in recent history” has been deemed a success, despite COVID-related factors. 

So says assistant deputy chief Nathan Melin, who offered the city’s emergency services committee an update on this year’s efforts during a recent meeting.

Although the 64-member boost increased their ranks from 209 in 2020 to 273, half of the municipality’s 18 stations don’t have the minimum required number of firefighters. 

The national Fire Underwriters Survey has determined this number to be 15, at which point stations are considered protected and covered by fire underwriters, deputy fire chief Jesse Oshell said. 

“We hope to achieve 15 and we aim for that particular goal — more is always better,” he told the committee, adding that the fire chief has been supportive of achieving even greater numbers, “to no particular top-end number.”

“We continue to recruit, we continue to recruit very hard, and we try to achieve where we can,” he added.

“That doesn’t mean we’re not providing fire response in those areas, we certainly are, we are providing different mitigative efforts and actions such as pairing stations together, dispatching multiple stations at a time to make sure we’re always sending the proper amount of firefighters to an emergency depending on what it is.”

Stations that currently fall short include Whitefish at 13 volunteers, Beaver Lake (four), Dowling (11), Levack (10), Val Caron (13), Capreol (11), Falconbridge (seven), Skead (three) and Coniston (14). 

The city’s Volunteer Firefighter Recruitment Committee is expected to meet early next year to prepare that year’s volunteer recruitment strategy, taking the best from this year’s efforts and resolving whatever shortcomings they discover. 

The committee is composed of firefighter professionals, an acquisition specialist and volunteers, and works to address what Melin referred to as the “ongoing issue of recruitment.”

This year’s effort found the city use various strategies to draw in applicants, including the use of portable signs, recruitment banners installed on stations, recruitment videos, radio ads, a social media campaign and posters.

“The younger candidates were more on social media, where the older candidates heard about it on the radio or saw the signs,” Melin said, later clarifying that the average age of applicants was 25 to 35, with people dropping off as they begin having children and run out of time to volunteer.

They ended up with 213 applicants, of whom 147 were forwarded to physical assessment testing. The majority of those to drop off at this stage did so because they did not reside in the response area. 

With more dropping off at each step, 90 made it to the interview process, 72 came forward for the mandatory 40 hours of training and 64 were hired. 


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