North Island Midweek

Comox Fire Department puts newbies through the ‘code three grind’

The Comox Fire Department has a training facility that attracts experienced firefighters, but also raw recruits. - Photo submitted
The Comox Fire Department has a training facility that attracts experienced firefighters, but also raw recruits.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Nine new recruits faced a physical challenge earlier this month to see not who could lift the most or run the fastest, but ultimately who could help those in need.

The nine recruits are working their way through the intensive training required to be a volunteer, on-call firefighter for the Comox Fire Department, explained Fire Chief Gord Schreiner. The recruits must past the physical ‘code three grind’ test to continue with training, said Schreiner.

“This year, we had 24 applicants, which is a fair number, and we had nine candidates selected to perform the physical challenge,” he noted, and added the recruits now have to train for anywhere between another three months to a year before they can assist on a fire.

Schreiner said he credits the excellent training facility on site at the fire hall which is used not only by local firefighters, but those from across the Island and province to attract volunteers.

Although it is challenging to find people to cover the Monday-to-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift, Schreiner noted the department does offer flexibility, particularly for those working shift work. He added he looks for three distinct qualities in individuals interested in joining: “You must be physically fit, highly dedicated and highly motivated.”

Schreiner explained volunteers must commit to a two-house Tuesday night practice, but the timing can be somewhat flexible for those who have to work. Once a month, new recruits also have to attend one Saturday training day.

Although the overall training takes about a year, Schreiner said some of the recruits can respond to medical emergencies within three months, depending on their background. Out of the current group of recruits, he noted five have had prior training and two had training as military firefighters.

With more than $1 million invested in their training facility, Schreiner said he’s “very proud” of the site Comox has to offer.

“We’ve got everything you need to train a firefighter on site,” he noted, and added they are one of two facilities on the Island and one of four within the province to have a live fire building.

“We’ve had firefighters from Chetwynd, Bowen Island and we’ve got career firefighters from Victoria coming up to train,” he said, and explained Comox has five full-time instructors, which keeps the facility to capacity nearly every weekend.

For more information on the department or to volunteer, visit www.comox.ca/hall/departments/fire

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