New recruits Travis Leeden, Robert Betteridge and Jason Andreola.  Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

New recruits Travis Leeden, Robert Betteridge and Jason Andreola. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Fernie Fire Rescue welcomes new faces

Fire department hires 10 new recruits, seven more on the way

Fernie Fire Rescue recently welcomed 10 new auxiliary members to their team of firefighters, bringing their total count to 23.

Last year, Fernie Fire Rescue hosted a recruitment drive, receiving 36 applications. After interviewing 24, 10 were chosen. The new recruits were officially hired in January and have been training ever since.

As of last week, the new recruits are first responder certified.

It became necessary to hire some new recruits as some of Fernie Fire Rescue’s members moved on. Some transferred to other departments while others decided to follow a new life path.

“We were down to 13 auxiliaries before we hired these guys,” said Fernie Fire Rescue training officer Brendan Morgan.

“We’re now up to 23, and we’re hiring another seven in May.”

Travis Leeden came to Fernie in 2006 from Perth, Western Australia. After discovering his love for the snow and someone special, he decided to plant roots. After working in hospitality and senior care, he decided to pursue something he’s always dreamed of.

He says his reason for joining was three-fold. Firstly, to pursue something he’s always been intrigued by. Secondly, he feels as though this is the right time in his life to take it on, and third, he was excited by the challenge of it. Leeden says he’s excited to join the force. He admitted that although the first few weeks of training were a large learning curve, he’s really enjoying himself.

Since joining, Leeden’s eyes have been opened to how expansive the role of a firefighter is. “When you think fire department, you probably pigeon hole it to fires, but it’s way more than that once you put your feet in and start training, learning the skills, and reading the book as to what you actually need to know,” he said.

Jason Andreola has lived in the Valley since 1994. Originally coming to work in the area as a real estate agent and joined his mother in the creation of their own business together. He still works in this business full time. Asked what interested him in fire rescue, Andreola says he’s always been intrigued by it. He also sees it as a way to give back.

“I wanted to do something more for the community, and for myself as well,” he explained. “I thought it would be a really good challenge for myself.”

Andreola says that the craft he has been practicing for the past 20 years, he knows it inside and out. But this was a chance for him to take a new direction in life.

“Coming into something totally outside of my comfort zone was a challenge to not just make me a better person, but also make me a better member of the community,” he said.

Robert Betteridge has only been in Fernie for eight months, moving to the mountains from London, Ontario.

He was sold after one season in the mountain town and decided to return for another, which reaffirmed that this was the place for him and his partner.

He is currently doing an electrician apprenticeship, but previously completed firefighting school in Alberta. Since completing this, it’s been his goal to sign on with a firehall. Timing was on his side, and two days after he arrived in Fernie in October, he paid Fire Rescue a visit and it so happened that they were hiring.

To Betteridge, the role of a firefighter in a community is first and foremost to protect the people. He also believes a firefighter carries with them the responsibility to be good role models in the community.

Every Tuesday night, the firefighters come together and practice. Betteridge is excited to learn from the other firefighters and grow in his role on the team.

“I think everyone comes from different places … and they all have different experiences in the fire service,” he said.

“There’s a lot of experience (here) that I can learn from.”