FORT NELSON, B.C. – The Northern Rockies Fire Department has had a quiet season this summer but continues to keep busy training and serving the community.

Deputy Fire Chief Hayward Sheppard says two challenges when it comes to firefighting are the small community and the amount of area the department covers.

“You’re always working with a small group, and you also have to consider the size of the area. We run from the Yukon border down to Sikanni Chief, it’s all community-based,” he said.

Squad 1 is the latest unit in the department’s fleet. The fire hall is rounded out by Chief James Childs, a dispatcher, six full-time firefighters, and 15 on-call members who all come together to train on auto-extrication, high angle rescue, swift water training, and more.

Sheppard says training opportunities are always rich in variety, with the added bonus of being part of a close-knit unit.

“You get to know everyone personally; you get to be a family group. That’s probably the biggest pro, and the training we do and the people we have are dedicated,” said Sheppard. “There’s a social aspect to it, and you get to learn.”

Sheppard has served with the department for eight years, starting out as an on-call member. He first arrived in Fort Nelson over 30 years ago from Newfoundland, working as a labourer at the OSB mill. It’s been home ever since, and he says the best part of living in Fort Nelson is the community.

“It’s been good. The community is great, and I have a lot of family here,” said Sheppard. “It’s a good spot, especially if you like being outdoors – fishing, hunting, camping, all of that.”