VICTORIA -- If there is a vehicle crash, a house fire or someone in medical distress on the West Shore, volunteer firefighters are among some of the first people who arrive at the scene.

Now, three local fire departments are issuing a call for volunteer firefighter recruits. The communities of Colwood, Metchosin and Sooke are looking for new recruits to join their dedicated teams of first responders.

“A lot of people who volunteer want to serve with pride and do something that has a tangible effect in their community,” said Colwood Fire Chief John Cassidy. “Certainly, being part of the emergency services is that tangible effect.”

Cassidy says new recruits will receive 12 to 14 months of dedicated training in not only firefighting, but all aspects of being a first responder. He points out that volunteers receive the same level of training as fulltime career firefighters.

“It’s the same training, the same response protocols so we set the bar high,” said Cassidy. “But when you set the bar high people will rise to the occasion.”

“We get a big mix of people, from blue collar to white collar; it is really all about the attitude coming in. So it doesn’t matter what you do in your normal life, you may have something that is beneficial to our organization,” he said.

To qualify as a volunteer firefighter, recruits must live in the community where they serve. Candidates must also be 19 years of age (18 in Sooke) or older and pass a criminal record check.

Metchosin Fire Rescue will be hosting an information session for interested applicants on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. at their fire station, located at 4440 Happy Valley Rd. The department’s application deadline is Oct. 15. Those who are interested can find out more by calling the fire department at 250-478-1307.

Meanwhile, Sooke Fire Rescue will be accepting applications until Oct. 12. Anyone with questions is asked to call 250-642-5422.

Colwood Fire Rescue will be holding an information session at its fire hall at 3215 Metchosin Rd. on Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. Due to COVID-19 protocols, people who wish to attend are asked to call the department ahead of time at 250-478-8321 during business hours.

Cassidy says for some people, volunteering as a firefighter can be life changing.

“Once they come in and have been in the fire hall for a while, it makes a distinctive change in them,” he said.

“They are more confident in themselves, (and) they have more pride in themselves and what they do for the community,” said Cassidy. “It really makes a positive impact on people.”