New Brunswick fire marshal Doug Browne and fire chiefs from across the province are doing another sweep in their search for more volunteer firefighters.

Of the 167 fire departments from across the province, over 145 of them rely solely on volunteers, Browne said, which is why it's becoming more important for people to join the ranks.

Browne said it's a constant challenge for fire departments in New Brunswick to find recruits. That's becoming more difficult with an aging population and in rural areas, as young people flock to cities.

'We do have an aging population but I do think there's still opportunities there for fire services to recruit the right people.' —Doug Browne

"We have an aging population in New Brunswick and then there's this urbanization, where in the smaller departments you do see the younger populations moving to the urban centres," he said.

"You do have challenges with recruitment in those areas just because there's simply not as many people anymore."

Long-term commitment

One of the major barriers facing potential recruits is the long-term commitment to finish the lengthy firefighter course, Browne said.

"Just to become a firefighter level one, it's a course of over 200 hours. This may take many many months — if you're doing it on evenings and weekends — before you can start being active in the fire service," he said.

"That is a challenge, to maintain that volunteerism when it's such a long commitment just before you even start working."

An important focus of this year's strategy, Browne said, is recruiting women and people from all demographics as well as making people more aware of the "dual personalities" firefighters have.

This means showing people that the over 4,000 firefighters across the province come from all walks of life to safeguard their communities.

"They may be a mechanic or a lawyer or a farmer by day and then by night, they're a firefighter," Browne said. "It's highlighting [those] dual personalties and also recognizing the efforts that they put to protect their communties."

How to become a volunteer firefighter

Browne is optimistic there are many volunteers out there that will join their local fire departments.

"I think we do have the numbers out there in the community," he said.

"We do have a dwindling population in some of these rural areas, we do have an aging population, but I think there's still opportunities there for fire services to recruit the right people."

For information about how to become a volunteer firefighter, visit the fire marshal's website.

With files from Information Morning Saint John