“Intensive” training is underway for the Bracebridge Fire Department’s latest recruits.

Deputy Fire Chief Jared Cayley says they have a long waiting list of people eager to join the ranks. “I don’t think I can stress enough the dedication these people that sign up have,” he tells the MyMuskokaNow.com newsroom. He says the process is competitive with him getting calls “all the time” but adds that a lot of people are lost once they find out how much needs to be done. “It’s a testament to the amount of work these people have to go through before they can even sit in a firetruck,” Cayley says.

This time around two recruits are being put through the process.

“We warn them right off the front that this is the same professionalization process that career firefighters go through,” Cayley explains. Before even getting into a fire truck, Cayley says an “extensive” online program that could take up to 110 hours to finish is done with a textbook of over 800 pages. Once they do start practical training, Cayley says the first thing that’s taught is how to put on the bunker gear. This past weekend, he says they were in Port Sydney to continue training. “We actually set a fire and they get to see the stages of growth,” he explains. “We let them use the thermal imaging cameras to see how the fire goes from nothing to 1,500 degrees celsius in a matter of minutes.”

All this leads to them becoming level one NFPA 1001 certified. Cayley says that 45 of the 46 firefighters at Bracebridge’s two stations have level two certification. 

“I couldn’t do it without some of my volunteer instructors,” Cayley says. He credits Paul Calleja with the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department as well for lending a hand. 

He says there’s no “magic” number when it comes to how many firefighters they want to have. “We always run between 45 and 50,” Cayley says. “That seems to be where we’re comfortable. That keeps it safe for us and the people we serve.” 

As part of an initiative done with the other fire departments in Muskoka, a Cottage Country-wide training session is done with 25 to 40 recruits between the six departments is done once a year. “It’s a fantastic team effort,” Cayley says. He explains it started about a decade ago when the course curriculum and a syllabus were submitted to the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office for approval. 

On top of that, regular “maintenance training” is done three Mondays a month. “We never stop training,” Cayley says.