Volunteer fire departments come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are fortunate enough to have larger suburban tax bases from which to draw. We still have to justify our expenditures but generally speaking we’re well-equipped and trained. There are, however, many departments who struggle with a lack of funding. With small personnel rosters and one or two trucks, they doggedly try to protect the small, rural communities they serve. While they frequently have mutual agreements with surrounding townships, help can still be a fair distance away. Is there anything the rest of us can do to assist them?
Many departments are already involved with donations of gear and equipment to Central and South America. What is slightly outdated here, by our standards, is worth its weight in gold to them. Because of liability issues, we're hesitant to do the same here in Canada. Nevertheless, there are still ways we can support our smaller departments.
For example, how many manuals do you have collecting dust on your shelves? If you have multiple copies, as often happens after a training course, consider donating some. You could be sitting on a wealth of information that would be appreciated by a department that doesn't have access to that material. Extra leaflets for public education can also be utilized, as most rural departments have an elementary school or church in their service area.
Perhaps one or more of your members has some expertise or skills they would be willing to share at a neighbouring hall during their practice. Training is expensive and often out of reach for the smaller departments. Do you have in-house training? Invite one or two members to partake, giving them the chance to develop and hone their own skills.
Does your department hold fundraisers? The next time you host a cabaret, you could allot a percentage of the proceeds to a little ‘sister’ department. Print it right on the ticket. Canadians love helping other Canadians, and knowing that their efforts are reaching others will stoke more enthusiasm. Share your fundraising ideas (i.e. calendars, barbeques, etc.) with departments who are looking for ways to generate money. Show your support with donations of goods and services for raffle tickets, or even buying the tickets themselves.
Morinville’s fundraiser in 2005 was a calendar (The Fire Within), which includes not only ourselves, but other departments from northern Alberta as well. A portion of the proceeds will be going to the fire departments affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Ultimately, the name of the game is saving lives and property. Whenever feasible, we should look beyond our own backyards and assist the smaller departments who are struggling to do just that. With a little creativity and ingenuity, the possibilities are endless.
Arlene Weslowsky is a third-year member with the Morinville Fire Department, just north of Edmonton, Alta. Weslowsky serves as a fire fighter and secretary, and until a recent switch to E9-1-1, she also played a strong role in dispatch.
Helping small, rural fire departments
Volunteer fire departments come in all shapes and sizes
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