Noel’s fire chief Brandon Barrett never thought he would be chief for 20 years. But here he is, at the head of the small but powerful volunteer fire service two decades later.
When he started he thought he could stay for a while, but his two sons arrived and it pushed his retirement further.
âMy kids got interested and I stayed,â he said with a smile.
Today he is surrounded by his two sons, Blake and Bryer, who are part of the team that meets, trains and attends regularly for a variety of Christmas needs.
It takes all kinds of volunteers, and Noel’s Fire Department is continually looking for new helpers as they fight fires, organize medical calls, and take care of the multicultural community nestled along the Elk River.
Some of these calls occur during âthe river season,â as Barrett puts it. Although Noel had an active season, the firefighters were not called a record number of times. âIt has been a busy river season, but not for us,â he said.
The fire department records approximately 450 to 500 calls each year. This year’s totals appear to be down somewhat, probably in the order of 400 or less than 400 calls.
âOur call volume is down which is a good thing,â he said.
He can’t necessarily identify the reason, but is grateful that the number of calls appears to be lower than in previous years.
Barrett actively recruits volunteers, placing ads in newspapers and on social media. He currently has eight volunteers in total, but he needs 25.
âEveryone is grappling with this,â he said.
An ongoing cadet program forms the volunteer base. The program gives cadets between the ages of 14 and 18 the chance to see the real dirt and the details of the job.
âThere are some things they cannot do,â he said. “There are certain tasks and they don’t fight active fires.”
Still, cadets learn skills, get closer to operations, and may plan to stay to help Noel. Barrett hopes the program will bear fruit.
With the volunteer base poised to grow, the department continues to operate with its current fleet. Aside from a few improved tips, the ministry is quietly and effectively maintaining the status quo this year.
As the crew members prepare for colder weather scenarios, they also prepare for the 19th annual Christmas For Kids toy drive, an idea Barrett’s wife Mandy wanted to see come to fruition, has he declared.
Volunteers usually go around town and distribute toys at Christmas. The volunteers go to Lanagan one night and distribute gifts, and another night is reserved for the Christmas children.
Last year, due to concerns over covid-19, the program was designed differently. Based on feedback from school counselors, nearly 30 children were chosen and received their gifts.
This year, the volunteers plan to host the project again in December, Barrett said. Anyone looking for information on the upcoming project should watch for updates on the Noel Fire Department Facebook page.