Essex Fire & Rescue held physical testing last week as part of its recruitment process.Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

When Essex Fire & Rescue put the word out it was looking to fill 12 firefighting positions towards the end of last year, Fire Chief Jason Pillon had no idea around 100 individuals would apply.

The interest in joining the local Fire Department was quite simply amazing and completely unexpected.

“It was unreal,” Pillon said of the number of individuals who first applied. During the last hiring session in 2021, Pillon noted Essex Fire was looking to recruit just a handful of individuals and had around seven or eight applications.

He points to morale within the Fire Department as to the reason there were so many applications this round.

“Firefighters are the best advocates. They’ve been advocating and encouraging people to come out,” Pillon said of the recruitment process.

Of the 100 applicants, 91 of those individuals took part in the written test, and 64 were eligible to move on to the next phase of testing.

Last Friday and Saturday, 54 candidates participated in the fire recruitment physical testing at Station 2, including several females, where the aerial truck and training facility is housed. 

Though the local Fire Department puts a big focus on fire prevention to prevent emergencies, firefighting can be a physical job. Last week’s physical testing included six skill stations that had the candidates drag a tire 50-feet to simulate the weight of a charged hose, climb the aerial truck ladder to ensure they were comfortable with heights, use a sledgehammer on the Keiser machine which simulates a forcible entry, and carry a hose up and down the stairs.

In addition, the recruits participated in a Beep Test that had them run a certain distance in a certain amount of time to test their cardiovascular health.

Through all of the training last week, Pillon said it was really great seeing there were firefighters from all three stations at Station 2, all encouraging the candidates to do their best, to push through when they were feeling fatigued, and offered tips.

Of those 12 vacancies Essex Fire is looking to fill this year, five are at Station 3 in Harrow, four are at Station 2 in the McGregor area, and three are at Station 1 in Essex Center. Typically, Essex Fire and Rescue has a complement of around 60 firefighters between all three stations, with four Captains and one District Chief at each station.

Pillon noted it will be tough to choose just 12 of the 54 candidates who went on to the physical testing round. Many of the candidates have shown the potential of being a future firefighter. The good news is that Essex Fire may be able to have a few individuals in reserve that it can pull from if an opening becomes available in the near future.

The next step in the recruitment process will be the interview portion, before the official job offers go out.

Pillon noted that training doesn’t stop there for the dozen who will make it to the roster. Essex Fire ensures all personnel are certified as Level One and Level Two Firefighters before getting on a truck. That will take an additional six or seven months for those new recruits to accomplish.

By Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 29, 2024 at 10:58

This item reprinted with permission from   Essex Free Press   Essex, Ontario

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