Large spaces, small budgets: Volunteer efforts power rural fire departments

In Manitoba, Baldur-Argyle FD benefits from Enbridge’s Our Community Partners volunteer program (Part 1 in a series)

Fire departments in small rural municipalities typically don’t get the same type of funding that city fire halls see every year.

That’s why donations of dollars and time, the latter of which is sometimes hard to come by, are so meaningful.

Baldur-Argyle Fire Department, located in Baldur, Manitoba, is one of these small-scale fire halls that serve over 1,000 people scattered across a vast expanse of farmland.

“In being such a small rural community, the work we do fills a valuable and necessary presence,” says Mark Everett, fire chief of the department. “It’s important that we retain well-trained members as full-time volunteers.”

At the fire hall, these volunteers are called active members, and the Baldur hall has 18. One of those 18 is Jared McIntosh, a mechanical technician with Enbridge who’s volunteered for Baldur-Argyle FD for three years.

While Baldur-Argyle is eligible for Enbridge Safe Community grants, McIntosh himself is eligible for Enbridge’s own volunteer program: Our Community Partners. Every year, McIntosh can apply for a $500 grant thanks to his volunteerism with the fire department.

“I have other colleagues that use this program—it’s fantastic,” says McIntosh. “While I would be volunteering with the department whether or not the funding existed, it’s still a bonus.”

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McIntosh says he puts his grant towards purchasing new gear or repairs at the fire hall, where his responsibilities include firefighting, vehicle extrication and general maintenance.

While Our Community Partners grants are provided to the non-profit organizations where Enbridge employees give their time, Enbridge’s Safe Community grants seek to support community first-response organizations as a whole.

Chief Everett has been with the fire hall since 1998 and can speak to the time and effort saved through external funding. A $10,000 Safe Community grant from Enbridge in 2016 purchased five sets of bunker gear for the department.

“Without the funding, we would be fundraising ourselves for several years before being able to accomplish this goal,” says Everett.

Since Our Community Partners was established in 2010, thousands of Enbridge employees have donated over 117,000 volunteer hours—and provided more than $2 million—to various organizations across North America. Through Our Community Partners, Enbridge continues to match up to $10,000 per employee in donations made to Enbridge’s various regional employee-powered United Way campaigns.

McIntosh says it was only a matter of time between him finding out about the Our Community Partners program, getting his application processed, and receiving a check in his hands. The program is now something his colleagues share with new employees so they can take advantage of it “as soon as they can,” he says.

“A lot of people here really step up in terms of volunteering. We hope it doesn’t go away.”