Industry closures and a lack of employment in New Brunswick is leading to a drastic shortage of volunteers at some of the province’s rural fire stations.Petitcodiac Fire Chief Gerald Jones says he only has half the crew he needs to keep the community safe.“In the daytime, if we had a fire right now we’d probably only have about six men,” he said. Story continues below
READ MORE: New Brunswick municipalities say arbitration awards to firefighters too costlyPetitcodiac Mayor Jerry Gogan says there are not enough people to meet community needs in emergency cases.“With both the number 1 and 2 highways beside us, we are sometimes called out to accidents and it could be a life-saving situation, and we don’t have the people to respond,” he said.Jones says one issue is that many of their firefighters, including him, are now older than 65.“I am pretty well at the end of the line,” he said. “I am not capable of doing front-line firefighting, and there are about five or six others who can’t do that.”He says they need younger volunteers, but many of them are forced to leave to find work. Two of Jones’ best firefighters were laid off when PotashCorp closed its mine near Sussex.“When there is no work in the village of Petitcodiac, they have to go elsewhere and they end up moving,” Jones said.Jones says other rural fire stations that rely on volunteers are facing similar shortages, so they have agreed to pool their resources, responding to each other’s fire calls — at least until they are able to recruit some additional help.READ MORE: Halifax council passes motion ordering fire service to hire 32 firefightersGogan says the village has spent more than $160,000 on new equipment in the past year.“If we don’t have the people here to man the equipment, it’s not going to be great in an emergency.”He says when other stations are on calls, the shortage leaves his community at risk.The Petitcodiac station needs at least five new recruits like 23-year-old Mackenzie Melvin, who is an electrician by trade. He managed to find work nearby in Moncton.“I find it hard to make calls during the day because I work out of town and I can’t leave town and come help out,” he said.
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