Bill Stephenson

Restoring a piece of history

Sooke Fire Rescue Service volunteers are rebuilding a 1942 fire truck

Sooke Fire Rescue Service volunteers are currently hard at work restoring one of the department’s first fire trucks for the service’s upcoming centennial celebration.

The department obtained the 1942 International Bickle Seagrave from the Royal Canadian Air Force at the Victoria airport in 1954 for $500.

In 1970, the fire truck was replaced by two brand new fire trucks and sent over to the fire department in Barriere, B.C.

But before the truck was driven off into the interior, a “gentleman’s agreement” was made stipulating Sooke would get first dibs on the truck when it was put out of commission.

B.C. and Sooke’s longest standing volunteer firefighter, Bill Stephenson, 81, made the informal contract, which was sealed through a simple handshake.

In October 2011, a Barriere municipal manager called, resulting in the fulfillment of the 41-year-old agreement.

“One of the members there, he was still with it and remembered it,” Stephenson said. “I remembered (the agreement), but I never thought the other guys would remember.”

The cost estimate of the restoration is $25,000 to $30,000. So far, the fire department has gathered approximately $10,000 in funds, $7,100 of which was recently supplied by a District of Sooke community grant.

The truck, which is currently in pieces, will be repainted red, and parts of the interior rebuilt. All the labour is being done by volunteers, who have dedicated 350 hours in recent months.

For the 100th anniversary, the department is currently brainstorming ideas like a festival and parade, where the refurbished, antiquated truck will be driven down the street.

In the future, the truck will be used to support community-oriented events.

“It’ll be used for parades, community events, and fundraising,” said Fire Chief Steven Sorensen, adding he hopes one day there will be some type of museum to house the truck and other historical items relating to the Sooke fire department.

But for the time being, the focus will be on the task-at-hand. The fire department is currently fundraising for the truck’s restoration. Donors of shares in $20 amounts will be given certificates of appreciation.

Anyone interested in making donations of money or time can contact the fire department at: 250-642-5422, ssorensen@sooke.ca or firechaplain@shaw.ca