Weyburn Fire Services is launching a Junior Firefighter program in the new year.
Fire Chief Simon Almond said it is designed for youths ages 14 to 18.
"We'll bring them into the fire hall twice a month, and we're going to teach them firefighting operations," he explained. "However, we're also going to do some fun stuff too. It's not just going to be totally committed just to firefighting, and fire suppression, and emergency response stuff. We want them to participate in the community, so we want them to be involved in community events and things like that."
Indeed, attending community events and outreach programs, and taking on initiatives like Saturday's Toy Drive, putting up Christmas decorations, and more, the local firefighters consider involvement a priority.
He said it's not a new program, but it's new to Weyburn. The Junior Firefighter program, he said, is modeled after programs like the Scouts, but with a focus on firefighting.
"We want the junior people of the youths of the community to be involved in the fire service, but also we're hoping it will be a recruitment tool, so that, you know, maybe some of them will stay after they're 18 and they can join as fully comprehensive firefighters when they're done," Almond noted.
"We want to engage the youth in some civil responsibility, to take pride in their community, and participate in the community, and this is just one method that they can do that."
He said requirements include being 14 years of age or older, being a Canadian citizen or equivalent, and, of course, having no criminal convictions.
"We're looking for a willingness to learn, a desire to participate in and attend training," Almond said. "Be of reasonable physical fitness, and no phobias in regards to height, confined spaces, or things like that."
Almond said beginning in the new year, the youths will begin meeting twice a month for two-hour training sessions.
"There'll be the odd weekend and things like that," he said. "It's the same as we have with our paid-on-call firefighters right now, we ask them to commit to two hours of training every week. This is going to be two hours of training every two weeks."
He said a couple of years ago, City Council had mentioned to him the idea of bringing this program to Weyburn, but the timing wasn't yet right until now.
"So with the Deputy [Fire Chief, Denis Poulin] coming on, we have more time, so now to implement it," he shared. "We're hoping to launch it in January of 2020 and go from there."
He said they attended the Career Fair at the Comp last month and have a keen interest from the local youth. However, they only have room for 20 youths.
"As it stands now, it's totally over-subscribed, and that's just by word of mouth. That's one of our problems, is to how we select people," Almond said, noting the selection criteria will be based upon the willingness to learn.
He said they will also be having some fun, including playing sports together, as team bonding is also important for firefighters. And, for the parents who may be wondering, the youths would not be sent out on any real calls before they join the Fire Services when they're 18 years old.