Nfld. & Labrador·Video

'Firefighting chose me': St. John's fire department welcomes newest recruits

It's a long and tough road to become a firefighter with the St. John's Regional Fire Department, but 22 new recruits have made the cut. Here are four of their stories.

The 22 new recruits graduated Friday afternoon, and head into rotations next week

Fire department welcomes new recruits. 1:57

It's a long and tough road to become a firefighter with the St. John's Regional Fire Department, but 22 new recruits have made the cut.

The new recruits are going through the orientation process before starting working rotations next week, and family and friends gathered Friday for a ceremony welcoming them into the department.

'Just couldn't give up'

For new firefighter Jen Jenkins, it's a dream job, since she's wanted to be a firefighter "every since I can remember."

"My father is a retired lieutenant from St. John's Regional and my stepfather is a retired captain, so I've been around it my whole life and it's always just been an extended family of mine," she said.

If you want to be in the top, you've gotta be the best.- Karen Greeley

Jenkins, one of two women among the 22 recruits, said she allowed herself to be discouraged from pursuing a career as a firefighter, but just couldn't give up completely.

"But as a child I was always told I couldn't do that because I was a girl, you had your friends knocking you down a little bit, 'You can't do that, you're a girl!' You tend to believe that after you hear it so often," she said.

"I gave up on it for a little while and moved to Ontario and ended up saying, 'You know what, I'm gonna give it a whirl, I know I can do this and this is what I want.' So I'm going after it."

'Lucky enough'

For Nick Williams, who started volunteering as a firefighter in 2006, this is his second attempt to make it to the St. John's Regional department.

"Firefighting, not to sound too cheesy, more or less chose me. It didn't take me very long to realize this is sort of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life," said Williams.

"This is my second crack at St. John's Regional and fortunately I was lucky enough to be one of the lucky candidates this time around."

From left, Jen Jenkins, Karen Greeley, Nick Williams and Terry Edwards. They are four of 22 new recruits hired with St. John's Regional Fire Department. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Terry Edwards got the news that he was one of the new St. John's hires while he was battling wildfires in Fort McMurray.

"A bit of an emotional swing, if you will. It didn't really set in since we were busy," he said.

"But to actually get home, be around family and friends and finally get to enjoy the moment and let it all sink in as to what I had been just through out in Alberta and to actually enjoy the news of getting hired by St. John's Regional."

'You've gotta be the best'

The hiring process has been "very difficult" for Karen Greeley, who said that just shows how dedicated the firefighters are to their job.

"I was unsuccessful in the first recruitment that I applied [to], but there's candidates here that have gone through four and five times. And that's a lot of dedication and perseverance to keep trying to better themselves as a candidate to get there," she said.

New recruits say it is difficult to get a job with the St. John's regional Fire Department. Many applied several times. (CBC)

"There could be 150 people applying for a position and depending on how many people they need, there could be 10 hired or 15, 20, so there's a lot of people that don't get hired. If you want to be in the top, you've gotta be the best."

Greeley said it goes to show that those who get through can't forget how hard the work is.

"It's been a long road and that's why everyone who's here appreciates the fact that they're here and doesn't take it for granted."