As with any fire department, firefighters protect the health, safety, welfare and property of those living in their communities.
The Woolwich Fire Department is no different. However, being a volunteer service, the fire department is not staffed full-time.
There are currently about 160 volunteer firefighters assigned to one of the six stations in Woolwich Township. “It sounds like a lot, but part of the reason is because we have to accommodate for the fact that we can not always get people,” says Woolwich Township deputy fire chief, Dennis Aldous.
“It’s a big commitment for our firefighters. We have live fire training on Saturdays and meetings on Monday nights, so this takes them away from their family time,” Aldous said. “We train every second Monday night for roughly two hours and then there is also additional training on weekends and other nights.”
There are also a variety of additional training opportunities.
“We have water rescue training because there was a demand for it. We do see lots of flooding here. We also have elevator and hazardous materials training because we do deal with a lot of chemicals in the area such as places like Safety Clean in Breslau, the airport, the railway and there are many farms in the township too,” Aldous said.
The Province has mandated that all fire departments must follow the same training standards as city firefighters. “All of our training is at the same level in terms of rescue, so we are trained to the same standard,” Aldous said.
Fire Departments are municipally funded as compared to police and paramedic services which are regionally funded.
The Woolwich Fire Department currently operates six fire stations in Breslau, Conestogo, Elmira, Floradale, Maryhill and St. Jacobs covering about 32,000 hectares of property. “We border areas from Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Wellesley, Mapleton and even Guelph-Eramosa. We cover such a vast area,” Aldous said.
The department has seven pumper trucks, five rescue trucks, four tankers and an aerial apparatus.
But there is feature at the St. Jacobs Fire Hall that compares to no other, the Woolwich Training House, which was established in 2014.
“This is something you don’t see everyday,” Aldous said. “It’s a two-storey 1,400 square foot house, allowing to us to train and to keep up our standards internally so that we can better protect and keep people safe. It’s fully sprinkled and is also hooked up to a smoke machine. It’s used for teaching and all our stations use it. We’ve even had people from Elmira District Community Living come to learn about getting out into a safe environment.”
Many local sponsors donated time and money towards the project. “This came from donated materials and lots of help from the community,” Aldous said. “It’s something our department is very proud of.”
Being a volunteer fire fighter means being at the ready.
“Everyone has a pager, 24/7 and if called, they are alerted to the type of call. We have agreements with employers so that firefighters can leave work and come to the station or go right to the call. So, it depends on the call and on the person getting the call,” Aldous said.
“Right now, Township wide, our response time is at about 8 ½ to nine minutes, which is really good. We are doing a really good job from the time a call comes in, to the time we respond.”
But besides firefighting, the department also engages with the community offering fire prevention tips and public education. “We have regular smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector programs,” Aldous said. “We make our rounds and make sure people have those in place. We also go to the schools and teach fire safety. And sometimes they come here to see the trucks.”
A career as a firefighter puts you on the front line of emergency response and it offers a challenging, fast-paced and rewarding profession.
You must be 18 years of age to apply to be a firefighter.
If anyone is interested in applying to the Woolwich Fire Department, they can do so online at https://www.woolwich.ca/en/fire.aspx
“It’s rewarding and you receive excellent training. It’s such a great way to serve your community,” Aldous says. “For our department, it’s all about community service and helping the community when it needs it. We have a lot of experience here and many end up staying a long time. It just shows their dedication and hard work.”
A career as a firefighter puts you on the front line of emergency response. It is one of the most challenging, fast-paced and rewarding professions available—and it might be what you have been seeking for in a career.
If you have an emergency call 9-1-1, and for all other Fire inquiries during business hours call 519-669-1647.