Recruitment, training top priorities for new fire chief

John Gleeson/Staff Writer / Staff writer
February 18, 2013 01:00 AM

Rob Michael, the newly appointed chief of the Roberts Creek Volunteer Fire Department, said he is honoured to be serving in the position, "especially with the crew that I've got."

The newly appointed chief for the Roberts Creek Volunteer Fire Department is hoping to build on a team that is already filled with "some really strong" members.

"Recruitment is going to be our number one priority this year," said Rob Michael, who took over last month from outgoing fire chief Bruce Searle.

The department currently has 22 members, with four on leave, while its full complement is 30.

"So we're really looking to have a recruitment push and gain some additional members," Michael said. "We would definitely be happy filling every spot, but 25 to 26 would be a good complement."

Michael, 29, was promoted to chief after 11 years in the department, which last year responded to 71 call-outs.

"I definitely have a lot of passion behind what I'm doing and I'm honoured to be doing it, especially with the crew that I've got," he said.

An employee at Howe Sound Pulp and Paper, Michael said he was intrigued from the start by the training aspect of firefighting -"both personally with the type of training I received and with the crew, delivering that training" - and early on took over as training officer. Three years ago, he was appointed assistant chief.

Searle, who was recently recognized by the Sunshine Coast Regional District for his 12 years as fire chief, was instrumental in preparing him for the expanded role and will continue as fire hall manager, handling administrative duties and fire inspections, Michael said.

The new executive includes Pat Higgins (assistant chief), Colin Kelso (training officer), Arthur Griffiths (captain), and lieutenants Stephen Gemmell and Sean Hatanaka. An 18-year veteran of the department, Higgins "comes with a very strong safety background and a lot of experience," Michael said.

Looking ahead, Michael said another goal is to develop a strategic plan for the department, which will include setting out operational guidelines and updating its training plan. A committee was recently formed to undertake that project, he said.

With plans in the works to host a joint training session with neighbouring fire departments by early spring, Michael said training remains his prime focus.

"Training's my number one. I want to make sure my guys are as qualified as they can be and take every opportunity to train better and be safer."

The department will be launching its recruitment drive in the coming weeks.

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