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Grande Prairie Regional Fire Service to officially launch ATCO Fire Cadet Program

The Grande Prairie Regional Fire Service is gearing up to officially launch the County of Grande Prairie ATCO Fire Cadet Program.

According to District Chief Matt Smith, the program marks the first of a multi-year funding commitment from ATCO in partnership with Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, and Wembley, and accomplishes one of the fire service’s long-term goals.

“One of our main strategies throughout the year is recruitment and retention so if we can bring people in early, get them pre-qualified and pre-trained when they turn 18 and they live in the communities that have paid responders or volunteers they’re available,” he says.

ATCO has made a habit of funding cadet programs around the province, and Smith says the program is critical in Grande Prairie, as the county prepares for what is expected to be another significant wildfire season.

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“We need the numbers,” he says. “The cadets won’t necessarily be able to respond to emergencies but they can support them through equipment turnaround, getting stuff ready, moving stuff, and care for things back at the fire station.”

Smith adds that lack of availability due to personal/work-related responsibilities has been hurting the volunteer fire service in rural communities.

“We were already struggling and volunteerism and having members in the smaller, rural communities to support these fire departments has been horrible,” he says. “The numbers have dropped [so] it will be huge just to get some more trained people in the stations.”

To date, 21 fire service cadets are enrolled in the program meaning each participating station will have 2-5 additional members to utilize. Smith says the funding will be useful for transportation, uniform, and training costs.

The official kick-off is scheduled for February 16th at 10:00 a.m. with a cheque presentation from ATCO.

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