LAC LA BICHE - Lac La Biche Fire Rescue Services is always trying to serve the community better, and the recent increase of women firefighters on the force has helped with that goal, says John Kokotilo, the manager of Protective Services and Regional Fire Chief for Lac La Biche County.
Having an inclusive list of members that not only reflects the community they serve and protect, but that also creates a more diverse outlook to the job, is an all-round win, says the veteran fire chief. He says community members in stressful situations, looking for help or guidance during an emergency situation may prefer the assistance of a female.
“We go to quite a few medical assists, and children are much more likely to go to them,” said Kokotilo, when he spoke of the 17 trained female recruits, who are current firefighters, firefighter cadets Cadets, or firefighter support members.
The female members make up 25 per cent of the current municipal fire crews. It’s the largest number of female members serving the force at one time, says Kokotilo.
Not only do the female staff make the stressful on-call visits more comfortable for some people, but for firefighters like Lori Lemay, a retired member of the armed forces and a healthcare worker, she’s been able to apply those experiences to the fire department.
“My role as a firefighter gives me that military sense of camaraderie and my support role in the ER department at the hospital gave me a sense of teamwork that is needed to get a job done,” she said.
Leah Larocque joined the local fire services in 2018. She sees it as an opportunity to give back to her community and to be a positive role model for her two kids. The experience in the department has inspired her to achieve more.
“I’d like to become a level-two firefighter, which I’m very close to being, gain more experience, and just do my very best within my role,” she said, adding that she plans to remain with the department for the foreseeable future. “ Maybe eventually rise higher up in the ranks.”
Currently, the Lac La Biche Fire Rescue Service has a roster of 65 active firefighters. There is a recruitment push on to reach a 75-member target, says Kokotilo.
While he is proud of the growing number of new firefighters and the interest from all members of the community, Kokotilo says the bottom-line is team-work. Men or women, young or old, urban, rural, farmer or housewife, when the alarms go off, the first- responders work as a well-trained team.
“The regional service has been very very positive now because all of our firefighters work together as a team. It doesn’t matter what district they’re from, when they show up to a call they all work together as a team which it’s really nice to see.”
More information on the recruitment for the Lac La Biche Fire Rescue, go to the municipal website.Casual paid on-call firefighters are needed at all five fire halls in the district.