Calgary Fire family embraces diversity

Recruitment officers want to represent the people they serve

From the front lines to the front of the office, veteran firefighters are growing the fire family through recruitment.

Over the years, the Calgary Fire Department has become more than a career. It is a place that fosters an unbreakable bond among its members, creating a special and enduring fire family.

“We eat together, we train together, go on calls, and try to grow and be better together,” said Scott Carnegie, a recruitment officer.

The family bond is an essential part of the fire department — a source of strength, support, encouragement, comradeship, and friendships vital to the well-being of firefighters across the city.

“When you leave the fire hall, you can rely on your brothers and sisters to help you if you’re in a bind,” said Irene Kharouba, a firefighter working in the recruiting office.

As the circle of firefighting grows, so does the make-up of the workforce.

Some seasoned firefighters — who have spent years responding to emergencies —  are now transitioning into roles in recruitment.

These veteran firefighters bring not just stories of courage, but an understanding of the qualities needed to thrive in such a demanding and rewarding career.

“We mostly recruit someone who shares our values, likes working in the community and someone who has done a lot of community volunteering,” said Tania Tyson, a recruitment officer.

To reach potential candidates, they deploy varied strategies including community outreach, career fairs, and the use social media to showcase the passion-driven action that comes with the job.

They also call attention to the personal and professional rewards of a career in firefighting.

“I do career fairs, where I talk to the public and introduce them to what our job looks like and its rewards,” said Tyson.

Fire departments across North America are working towards building and nurturing a more diverse workforce that represents the communities they serve — and Calgary is no different.

“It’s a 100 per cent male-dominated profession,” said Tyson. “I think that is just a historical belief.”

It’s a historical belief that needs to change, according to Carnegie.

“Diversity is important,” he said. “We are always looking for people who can represent the people we serve.”

Field firefighters-turned-recruitment-officers are the link between the past and future of the fire department.

Through their efforts, they help ensure that the next generation of firefighters is equipped with the skills and sense of community they will need to excel in their roles.

“You train to be professional, not squeamish, and to work well in a team, so you are able to deal with the public,” said Kharouba.  “We see some heartbreaking situations.

“If you’re somebody that wants to become a firefighter, you better be prepared to have a lot of grit and determination.”

Ready to go: Gear hangs in firefighters’ lockers in one of Calgary’s fire stations. The gear is fire-resistant and the uniforms are easily recognized by citizens. (Photo by Faithfulness Oyekanmi/The Press)
About Faithfulness Oyekanmi 6 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Faith Oyekanmi is working as a writer for The Press in 2024.