Two dedicated local firefighters have helped the Estevan Fire and Rescue Services attain a Canadian first.
Captains Kyle Luc and Charles Olsen have been elected to national committees, and according to Estevan Deputy Fire Chief Dale Feser, it's the first time that a fire department in Canada has had two members serve on national committees simultaneously.
Luc, a five-year member of the local department, and a firefighter with 12 total years of experience, was elected as the Saskatchewan representative for the national board of the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association (CVFSA).
“It (the CVFSA) benefits the community by maintaining and strengthening Canadian volunteer fire services through education, training, administration and organizational standards for all Canadian volunteer firefighters,” said Luc.
Luc has been charged with heading up the selection of the CVFSA's annual lifetime achievement award, which is presented to a firefighter or chief with at least 30 years of experience; and the municipal long service medal, which goes to someone with at least 20 years of service.
He'll nominate a Saskatchewan firefighter for each distinction. Other provinces will do the same. Award recipients will then be chosen.
Luc will also have to participate in a monthly conference call, and his committee responsibilities will likely entail two or three hours of work each week.
He looks forward to gaining experience from being on a national board, representing the city in a positive fashion, and boosting the ties between the different fire departments within the province.
Feser noted that the local fire department will be trying to do more to recognize its members in the future. They have individuals who have been part of the department for over 30 years and have watched the city flourish.
They bring invaluable leadership, experience and knowledge, Feser said.
Olsen, who has also been part of Estevan's fire department for five years, has been chosen as a Saskatchewan director for the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation (CFFF). The organization holds a memorial service in Ottawa each year, when they honour all of the Canadian firefighters who have perished in the line of duty.
“Our goal is to honour and remember these firefighters,” said Olsen. “Their names are engraved on a monument.”
The CFFF also supports the deceased firefighters' families. Bursaries and scholarships are available for their children, Olsen said.
“The board I'm sitting on represents career, volunteer, paid on-call and wildland (firefighters) and pilots – anybody in the fire service,” said Olsen.
He'll have to attend an annual meeting in May, several meetings via phone or internet, and possibly committee meetings.
Estevan's firefighters are like family, he said. If one were to die while on duty, Olsen said he'd do anything he could to help the family.
“The CFFF stands for everything like that,” said Olsen.
Olsen also looks forward to representing Estevan, and its firefighters, through his appointment to the foundation's board.
Luc and Olsen are the first Saskatchewan representatives for their respective organizations in a number of years. Ironically, the Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented the same weekend as the CFFF's memorial service in Ottawa in September.
Olsen and Luc had approached Feser about serving on national boards, and Feser welcomed their choice. He knows that they're capable of handling their responsibilities.
“I see our fire department as a leader in the southeast corner of the province, and I see our fire department as a leader within the province, so why not expand that, and try to help all of our brothers and sisters across Canada,” said Feser.
Feser has also sought out a leadership opportunity. He has been elected to the Saskatchewan Association of Fire Chiefs' Division 3 as a zone director. Among their responsibilities will be bringing issues related to firefighting in Saskatchewan to MPs or national boards.
He's part of a fire inspectors' division within the association. Other divisions include industrial fire protection, public education and volunteer firefighter support.
“Regardless of whether it's a volunteer service or if it's a paid on-call service or a career service, we try to approach these with the same manner, because no matter where you are in the province or the country, it's still the exact same fire or motor vehicle collision that you're going to, and these individuals are expected to do the exact same job,” said Feser.
He already attended a strategic planning session in late June.
Feser will also be involved with the semi-annual Saskatchewan volunteer firefighter training schools that provide training to volunteer firefighters in the province. He'll also attend meetings, a conference and various other sessions.
Luc said he hopes that the exposure generated by the provincial and national appointments will enhance the profile of Estevan's fire department across Canada.
“We have a great fire department here, and obviously a lot of talent,” said Luc.
While Estevan's firefighters are paid on-call members, and they have only three full-time employees in the fire department, Feser noted that 80 per cent of Estevan's firefighters have professional certification or a journeyman's standard – a ratio that would make many full-time departments envious.
The national board appointments are another indicator of the level of commitment from local firefighters, Feser said.
“Just being on the fire department within our city alone is very taxing on a personal life, as well as your work life,” he said. “I cannot thank the employers enough as well, because every one of my firefighters has a job that they go to everyday.
“And with the call volumes that we're currently experiencing, which is averaging a call every 1 1/2 days, that's a lot of time that an employee may be gone.”
Feser said it's important for their membership to take a leadership role in different avenues in Saskatchewan and in Canada.
This marks the first time they've had anyone from Estevan on a national board. They aren't paid positions, either; Feser said they are volunteer gigs for dedicated firefighters who want to see their brethren go home safe at the end of the day.