Two Town of Brome Lake firefighters, Ross Clarkson and Kevin Bailey, were recently awarded their Officer One certificates. After 195 hours of hard work on the weekends and weeknights, on top of their regular day jobs and volunteering with fire department, the two men have secured their Officer position to continue to play their part in providing public security services to citizens.
“In a municipality with a population of 5,000 citizens or more, the officers of the fire department have to be certified with Officer One,” explained Clarkson, assistant director of the Brome Lake Fire Department. “So, if it’s less than 5,000, you just have to do an Urban Officer certificate. It’s still an officer’s course, but it’s not anywhere near the same level of study that Officer One is.”
The course is broken down into three different categories and provides various types of skills that contribute to the organization of the department. “The first category is instruction, so how to give instructions and to lead the group. The second part is broken into two sections,” said Clarkson. “One section is the management of an intervention, like a house fire or a car accident, the second half is management of your personnel in the fire department, so the firefighters that are under you. The third category is how to organize the operation of a fire service. You learn about scheduling, how to manage conflict, budgets, a lot of different things.”
The course is a university-level training, requiring 195 hours of investment, that doesn’t include the time set aside for homework, and it was taken completely in French. “It took us three years to complete,” said Bailey, captain of the fire department.
On top of the 195 hours, to be considered for the Officer One course, a firefighter has to have completed Firefighter One, which is 255 hours, and Firefighter Two, another 120 hours. “We are looking at almost 600 hours. That’s what the government has put in place. Nowadays, for the volunteer departments such as ours, residents and young people that think they may want to join, are they able to do this many hours of courses and still have a family, a job, and other commitments?” mentioned Clarkson. “It’s a very hard task now to get new firefighters to join because of this.”
Their involvement with the department extends back over 20 years with Clarkson joining in 1995 and Bailey in 1997. “My father is a fireman so I grew up as a child knowing that my father was a Brome Lake firefighter and he’s still on the fire department. I believe he is approaching 46 years or so of service. The fire department, in a small town like Brome Lake has a social aspect and family aspect to it that really comes into play,” Clarkson said.
“We have the same story. My dad served 30 years on the department and retired around 10 years ago or so. I grew up as a fireman’s kid you know so that’s the reason I joined and I did get to serve about four years with my dad before he retired,” said Bailey.
Not only are they putting out fires, but they provide various forms of security. “Probably 80 per cent of our calls are non-fire related. We do ice rescues, open water rescue, mountain rescue, car accidents, and we have specialty groups trained for that type of incident,” said Bailey. “The guys that do open water and ice rescue have to do a refresher every year. We are not just the fire department, we are public security I guess is the best way we could say it. We all have a minimum of 255 hours and many of our guys have a lot more.”
Clarkson emphasized that for the Brome Lake Fire Department, it’s all about the citizens. “Yes, the firefighters are volunteers, they do get paid when they get a call, but they never come in at the best time of day for any of us if you know what I’m saying? These men and women that join and go through all of this training, they love to interact with the residents of the town, showcase the town, and be involved in events and stuff. It could be the fireworks, it could be anything the town or an organization is planning, but they always involve the fire department in some way and the firefighters love to interact with citizens in Brome Lake.”
“And West Bolton,” added Bailey.