Nova Scotia

Cape Breton fire service looks to diversify force amid applicant shortage

Upcoming retirements of career firefighters are prompting the Cape Breton Regional Fire Service to look for new members. The deputy fire chief hopes to hire women, people of colour, and members of the LGBTQ community.

‘I would love to see this service reflect our community,’ deputy chief says

Gilbert MacIntyre is the deputy fire chief for the Cape Breton Regional Fire Service. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Upcoming retirements are prompting Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Regional Fire Service to look for new members, and the deputy fire chief hopes to hire diverse recruits, including women, people of colour, and members of the LGBTQ community.

The fire service is looking to fill six positions now and several more next spring as more career firefighters retire. 

"I would like to see the service diversified more. I would love to see more females in it. I'd love to see marginalized folks in it. I would love to see this service reflect our community," deputy chief Gilbert MacIntyre told CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton guest host Wendy Bergfeldt. 

But the applicant pool is a lot smaller these days. 

"When I applied 34 years ago, there were 382 people that applied and competed for six jobs. Now, when we put out a posting, this time we put out a posting for six jobs and we got, I think 30 people maybe, and we had 15 that were able to write the test," MacIntyre said.

Typically, the fire service looks to hire applicants from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality first, but MacIntyre said they currently don't have enough successful candidates to fill the positions. 

They're expanding their search beyond those in the municipality to find successful and qualified candidates elsewhere. 

The Cape Breton Regional Fire Service has six open positions, with even more to fill come spring. (Cape Breton Regional Fire Service)

Kevin Haley joined the service six months ago after getting his certifications at the Nova Scotia Firefighter School outside of Halifax. He volunteered with the Dominion Volunteer Fire Department before that. 

Haley agrees it would be nice to see some diversity in the crew. "Right now we have two females in the department and it'd be nice to see a few more," he said. 

He said fewer people applying has made that goal difficult. 

More retirements looming

Though it's not a requirement to be trained at a fire school, MacIntyre said those who are typically have more competitive applications, and people who can communicate and are physically fit are top contenders. 

"You have to be fit to do this job. You know, this job will kill people if you don't do it right."

The application process includes a physical test, interviews, a polygraph test, and a psychological evaluation.

This spring, MacIntyre expects even more retirements. 

"I think there's going to be a great exodus from CBRM. I think in fire service, police, public works, everybody is going to be recruiting," he said.

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With files from Information Morning Cape Breton

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