NEWS

Wanted: 200 new forest wildfire firefighters this summer in B.C.

01/23/2015 06:32 EST | Updated 03/25/2015 05:59 EDT
B.C.'s Wildfire Management Branch is looking for new firefighters to travel the province this summer putting out forest wildfires.

The province employs more than 1000 firefighters each summer, and with a turnover rate of about 20 per cent, it is looking for around 200 new recruits.

Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek told Daybreak Kamloops' Shelley Joyce what the branch is looking for in new hires:

1. Basic qualifications

Firefighters have to have a valid B.C. driver's licence, as well as their Level 1 First Aid certification. Proof of enrolment in a Level 1 First Aid course is also accepted.

Skrepnek said experience working outdoors and in the resource industry is also an asset, as is enrolment in a post-secondary program.

As a bonus, the seasonal summer work fits with most students' summer breaks.

2. High level of fitness

Applicants have to pass a "very rigorous" fitness test before starting work, and that high level of fitness is needed on the job.

"It can be a tough grind out there physically and mentally," said Skrepnek.

3. Willing to take risks

"There is that element of risk, but we face that head on and we make sure people are doing everything they can not to put themselves in those situations," said Skrepnek.

He said the Wildfire Management Branch has a safety-first mentality, that is instilled in all firefighters over the course a seven-day bootcamp they participate in before starting the job.

4. Gender doesn't matter

Both women and men are encouraged to apply for the work, and Skrepnek said in some areas, people with a smaller build actually have an advantage.

"In a lot of cases, a smaller weight can be advantageous. For some of our crews there's restrictions, because they have to be doing what's called the "hover exit" — getting out of a helicopter while it's still in the air."

5.  Desire to travel

Skrepnek said one of the best aspects of the job is the travel that comes with the work.

"You're seeing the outdoors. You're seeing parts of the province that you wouldn't see otherwise," he said.

Firefighters also travel beyond B.C.'s borders — the province has mutual-aid agreements with other provinces, the northwestern states in the U.S. and Australia.

The deadline to apply to the Wildfire Management Branch is Saturday at midnight.

To hear the full interview with Kevin Skrepnek, click the audio labelled: Forest firefighters wanted.

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