Inter-Canyon pushing for new volunteers

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By Deborah Swearingen

For fire departments such as Inter-Canyon Fire Protection District, volunteers are everything.

And in light of this, Inter-Canyon will be kicking off a push for more on Monday. Volunteer applications open that day and will stay open for a month.

“Nationwide and in Jefferson County, as well as at Inter-Canyon, volunteerism (in the fire service) is on the decline,” said Dan Hatlestad, spokesman with Inter-Canyon.

This is, in part, due to an increase in households with two working parents and an increase in training requirements. Inter-Canyon requires all volunteer firefighters to receive a Colorado firefighter one certification, as well as training in hazardous materials operations, basic wildland firefighter training and emergency medical response training. In total, that’s about 600 to 800 hours of training necessary to safely perform on scene and provide services to district residents.

While it’s important to keep the challenges of the job in mind, Inter-Canyon Chief Skip Shirlaw said, overall, being a firefighter is incredibly rewarding.

“People need to know what they’re getting into. … They need to realistically understand what is expected of them, especially the first year,” he said. “But beyond that, it’s just one of the most noble, honorable professions.

“To selflessly give your time, give your energy, take time away from your family to help someone else in need is an incredible feeling, really,” he added.

Shane Buckles joined Inter-Canyon as a volunteer 23 years ago when he and his wife moved to the Foothills. A love of service and sense of camaraderie has kept him around.

“Obviously, if it wasn’t fun you wouldn’t stick with it,” said Buckles. “It’s important to give back to the community, (and) it is rewarding to give back at people’s worst times.”

Like Hatlestad and Shirlaw, Buckles notes that Inter-Canyon could not function without its volunteers.

“We don’t have paid department members,” he said. “We rely on people with skills in the community to help and to give back in that time of need.”

A little more than 40 people currently volunteer with the department, but Inter-Canyon is constantly on the lookout for more.

There are a variety of ways to help out, as well as a variety of specializations in firefighting itself. Volunteers can choose to take the firefighting track or the emergency medical services track.

While volunteer spots are open to both in-district and out-of-district residents, Hatlestad said in-district members are always encouraged. Those in-district residents live within an air mile of the 52-square-mile border of Inter-Canyon’s district.

“We focus on them because their availability is greater. They can respond from home in the middle of the night,” he said. “That’s always our prime focus. We really want people from the community to serve the community.”

Anyone with an interest in the fire service is encouraged to contact Inter-Canyon to learn more about the opportunity. Hatlestad and Shirlaw both said they are happy to delve further into the details of the position.

Once applications close on Aug. 10, the fire department will sort through the applications, interview potential candidates and conduct background checks. The selected recruits would then go through the January 2018 fire academy.

To apply or learn more, visit www.intercanyonfire.org or e-mail Kelley Wood at kelley.wood@intercanyonfire.org.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042.