The Merritt Fire and Rescue Department (MFRD) is searching for more paid on-call firefighters to join the department, offering a variety of benefits ranging from a positive social environment to possible career advancement opportunities. On-call firefighters with the MFRD are remunerated for their work, which takes place outside their regular hours of employment. 

The MFRD is made up of 6 staff, 5 work experience, and 25 paid on-call firefighters. The department operates out of the City’s Fire Hall on Nicola Avenue, responding to over 900 calls annually in Merritt and some other parts of the Nicola Valley. Merritt firefighters are often called to assist the BC Wildfire Service and other fire departments on larger scale emergencies. While the job of a firefighter certainly comes with risks, the department says many of these can be alleviated in house.

“We now have facilities that can accommodate both men and women,” said Fire Chief Dave Tomkinson.

“We have decontamination facilities, and it just makes the job more palatable. A lot of the risks that are associated with firefighting, we can address here in the station. There’s more space to congregate, because the social aspect of the department is huge. This is a second family to us.”

Members of the MFRD follow what they dub their “IMPRESS” core values: Integrity, Mentoring, People, Response, Empathy, Service, and Safety. The department and its members are committed to community safety, offering a number of programs and services aimed at increasing awareness and mitigating safety risks. The positive work and social environment at the station make the job enjoyable, added Tomkinson.

Captain Carl Johnston is the MFRD’s training officer and work experience program coordinator, and is overseeing recruitment and training efforts. The station houses and employs five work experience firefighters full time, offering firefighting experience in return for work and housing. That program is often full, but Johnston looks to expand the department’s pool of paid on-call firefighters. He said the job has been one of the most rewarding of his life, and encourages those of all or no firefighting experience to inquire. 

“I love seeing those new people come in with no experience, and getting to provide them a certification a year later,” said Johnston. 

“You learn as you go and on the job, and soon you’re on the fire grounds and part of a team. It’s cool to see that advancement and final result from people who join the hall. I’m available anytime through the website and email. Applications are always online, so people can fill that out and we’ll get back to them as soon as possible. Even if they just have questions, we’re always available and we’ll make time.”

While the job of a firefighter can be physically and emotionally demanding, the Merritt Fire and Rescue Department is well equipped to support its members and address some of these concerns, while providing a number of essential services to the community. Tomkinson added that sometimes when it comes to getting out of bed for a late-night emergency call, sometimes it’s the little things that make it easier.

“We’re usually pretty humble, but it’s nice to get a thanks,” said Tomkinson. 

“You can be out front washing the trucks, and people will drive by and honk their horns and stuff. That’s payment enough right there. It’s for all the right reasons, they recognize some of the sacrifices our firefighters make. Sometimes it’s been harder than others to get out of bed in the middle of the night, but at the end of the day it’s that bit of thanks that’s really appreciated.”

Applications to become a paid on-call firefighter with the MFRD are open until September 29, 2022. For more information, including requirements and responsibilities, visit the department’s website at