Craig Fire/Rescue holds annual open recruiting

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Fire Chief Bill Johnston wants you to join Craig Fire/Rescue. But, he might try to talk you out of it, first.

“Our dropout rate is 50 percent,” said Johnston, speaking of his annual fire academy for new recruits. “We want (recruits) to be eyes wide open, fully informed, because it’s quite a commitment.”

Craig Fire/Rescue seeks six part-time firefighters to fill its ranks. Applications will be accepted until Sept. 20, said Ashley Ellis, administrative assistant for the fire department.

“Anyone can apply,” Ellis said. “You don’t even need qualifications because we do all of our training in-house.”

While that may be true, Johnston has an opinion on who isn’t right for the department.

“I’m not looking for someone who is thinking about joining our fire department for the money,” Johnston said. “You certainly can’t make a living at it.”

Ellis is the fire department’s only full-time employee. The remainder of the staff get paid on a part-time, per-call basis.

Rookies, Ellis said, gets paid $10 per hour per call during their first year, and $18 per hour per call and up thereafter.

Having a part-time fire force presents challenges, Johnston said, particularly during the workweek. Because most Craig firefighters have day jobs, they have to leave work during times of emergency.

“In the olden days,” Johnston said, “most of this fire department was made up of business owners around the town. They could just close up shop or hand their business over to employees and go to fire calls. And we’ve migrated away from that.”

Nowadays, Johnston has to appeal to his firefighters’ daytime employers.

“It’s the right thing to do, civically, to let your employee go on the big ugly calls,” he said.

New hires will begin the fire academy in January 2011.

“It’s hard work,” Johnston said of the academy. “Even though we’re a small, part-time fire department, we have to comply with all of the certifications and experience levels and knowledge-base as any large metropolitan fire department in America.”

And, due to Craig’s rural location and industry, Johnston’s firefighters need to be “proficient and efficient in swift-water rescue, high-angle rope rescue, confined-space rescue, ice rescue, extrication and large commercial fires,” he said

Despite the hard work, Johnston says it’s worthwhile.

“There are some great challenges in being a firefighter,” Johnston said. “But there are times when you bring all your training to bear, and you save lives and property.

“That’s an extremely good day.”

For more information of Craig Fire/Rescue’s recruitment process, call the department at 824-5914, or stop by the department at 419 Yampa Ave.

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