Matt Wilton is looking forward to being able to do more as an officer with the Lacombe Fire Department.
Wilton, who was recently promoted to a lieutenant on the fire department, is looking forward to further improving the Lacombe Fire Department. He said this new promotion will enable him to do a bit more in that respect.
“As firefighters we train a lot,” said Wilton. “As a lieutenant you can kind of guide that training and mentor the guys beneath you.”
Wilton took the position of lieutenant after being after being approached by his Captain Brian Newbury, who has also been newly promoted.
It was an encouraging feeling when Wilton received the promotion, he said. “It felt good to realize that the leadership here was confident in my ability to lead everybody. I was excited to get into a role where I could help mentor the guys below me.”
Wilton added when he joined the department, there were plenty of senior members but in recent years those numbers have dwindled. He said he hopes his new position can help build experience within the department as well.
Wilton has been a volunteer firefighter with the Lacombe Fire Department for five years. He is also a full-time firefighter with the Edmonton Fire Department Station #13 and has been for about a year.
As a career firefighter and a volunteer firefighter, Wilton has seen the differences between the two structures first-hand. He said the biggest difference between the two are resources.
“(In Edmonton) they have a lot more people to work with,” said Wilton. “Up there, one fire alarm will get like seven trucks. Here, we would have to get the entire department to roll the six trucks that we have. We work with a lot less down here, to do the same job.”
Wilton said being a volunteer firefighter takes a bit more dedication than it does for career firefighters, simply because at a volunteer department, everyone has a full-time job on top of being a firefighter. He added a lot of people don’t understand that as a volunteer fire department, Lacombe’s fire hall is unmanned and mostly empty unless there is an emergency.
Full-time firefighters on the other hand spend their time between calls at the fire hall. Wilton said they use these opportunities to clean the station, work out, do training and perform maintenance on equipment.
Excitement, diversity and the ability to help people were things that attracted Wilton to a career in firefighting. Before going to school for training as a firefighter, he decided to join the volunteer department to ‘get his feet wet’ and make sure it was something he wanted to do.
It didn’t take long for Wilton to decide firefighting was a career he was interested in. He said the variety of tasks included in the job and doing something different each day made firefighting a good fit for him.
“I don’t like to come into work, sit down at a desk for eight hours and go home. That’s not my thing.”
After joining the Lacombe Fire Department, Wilton learned he could get all of his training and certification in Lacombe through correspondence with Lakeland College (where Wilton was considering going for his training anyway) and get experience on the department at the same time.
So, he decided to continue training as a volunteer firefighter and received all his certifications within two years.
Wilton said that getting his training at home in Lacombe, where he has lived for the past 14 years, made the experience more personal for him. He added it may have had a bearing on his decision to pursue a career in firefighting.
“It felt good to know that I was helping my community.”
Camaraderie is another feature of a career in firefighting that attracted Wilton to the field. He said that crews do a lot of team building and work on crew morale because it is important to be able to rely on each other in emergency situations. “We are down here a lot, even as a volunteer department,” said Wilton. “When stuff really gets going , you have to be able to rely on people 100 per cent.”
Wilton’s experience as a volunteer firefighter enabled him to get on board with the Edmonton Fire Department. Now, he hopes his experience as a full-time firefighter can help him develop the Lacombe Fire Department.
“I think part of the reason I’m still a volunteer here is I’d like to develop where I started,” said Wilton. “To actually build it up.”
Wilton said he has learned a lot of systems, logistics and other things from his time as a firefighter in Edmonton. He said that while some things need to be modified for use in Lacombe because of manpower, he hopes to implement them here as well.
One of the ways Wilton hopes to build up the local department is to recruit new members, as he will be continuing in his capacity as recruitment and training officer also. He said the Lacombe Fire Department is still recruiting and applications can be picked up at the City Hall or downloaded from the City web site.