Fire chief Christopher Carleton will be choosing three to five candidates from 38 hopeful applicants to sign on as volunteer firefighters.
On Saturday, September 29, candidates for the position were in Point Roberts to learn about the department and meet firefighters and officers. Carleton said the applicants from all over the lower mainland were recruited to bring the number of weekend volunteers to full capacity. “I prefer to have 32 firefighters within the organization who can participate in the weekend duty program,” he said. “The ideal staffing level for a weekend shift is eight volunteers, hopefully with one an emergency medical technician (EMT),” he explained.
Volunteers participating in the program stay at the fire station one weekend a month from Friday to Sunday evenings. A firefighter is paid a stipend of $75 per shift, the officer in charge of the weekend is paid $300, and EMTs get $100. Stipends for responding to a call have been increased from $11 to $16 for six hours, and $20 if the call is longer.
"I think the volunteers deserve more,” Carleton said. “It’s important to pay a stipend to attract people and staff the station during the day rather than choosing to go and do something else.” He added that the fire department’s legal counsel would be reviewing any changes to volunteer compensation to ensure the department’s pay structure was in compliance with all state and federal laws.
Carleton said it was within his authority to make the changes to volunteer staffing and compensation, and he was committed to remaining within the $375,000 operational budget for 2012. “There are obviously going to be some line item changes,” he said. “I consider it negligent to the community not to spend that money to get more service and needed equipment.”
The applicants not selected after Saturday’s open house will be placed on a list to fill vacancies in the department as needed. “I can see us taking 10 or 15 people over the next year as we lose people to career positions,” Carleton said. He added that community members with questions abut staffing and compensation changes could contact him at 945-3473 or attend the next regular meeting of the fire district commissioners at 7 p.m. October 12 at the fire station on Benson Road.