With the local fire department breaking records for the number of calls it responds to, chief Christopher Carleton points out that the department is able to handle the higher volume thanks to Canadian firefighters who come to the Point to gain experience.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do everything that we’re doing,” he said at the September 12 fire commissioners meeting. The department answered a record 47 calls in the month of July and Carleton said he expects they will respond to over 300 calls in 2018. “It will be our busiest year ever,” he said.
Rising call volumes are being supplemented by calls for new services like the community paramedic.
Carleton said he wanted to correct any perception that local taxpayers are paying to train Canadian volunteers who then leave for full-time jobs in lower mainland fire departments. “They have already spent $16,000-$20,000 of their own money and are already fire qualified, with a host of other qualifications, before we will accept their application,” Carleton said.
Canadian volunteers are able to attend emergency medical technician training in Washington through the department, but are under contract to serve the community for a set amount of years or repay the cost of that training, Carleton said. The department pays for all training for U.S. volunteers but they are also required to serve a contracted period of time or repay their training costs.
Of the 47 volunteers on the fire department roster, 27 are from Canada. “Our patch has both the U.S. and Canadian flags on it,” Carleton said, and features the motto from the Peace Arch, ‘brethren dwelling together in unity.’ “This is a community and we take care of each other.”