Sooke fire chief retires after 36-year career

Reflecting on his 36 years with the Sooke Fire Rescue Service, there is one accomplishment Steven Sorensen is most proud.

Reflecting on his 36 years with the Sooke Fire Rescue Service, including the last seven as chief, there is one accomplishment Steven Sorensen is most proud.

“We had personal issues with other departments. We didn’t always get along,” recalled Sorensen. “We wanted to address that problem.”

“I think we’ve mended the fences to the point that we can all work together on a personal level and during emergencies without hurting feelings and egos.”

The plan has worked so well that there is now a strong working relationship between the Sooke, Otter Point and Metchosin fire departments. Earlier this year Sooke and Metchosin even teamed up to have a joint training program for recruits.

Sorensen, 56, who joined the fire department as a volunteer in 1980, announced Thursday that he will retire Oct. 17.

He worked his way up the ranks and became a fire prevention officer before taking on the role of deputy chief in 2002.

In 2009, Sorensen became fire chief taking over from Bob Kelsey.

As well he was a member of the B.C. Fire Chiefs Association and the Fire Prevention Officers Association of B.C., among others.

“Chief Sorensen has been a shining example of community service in Sooke, having selflessly given countless hours to ensuring the protection of residents and organizing fundraising events to benefit the community,” said chief administrative officer Teresa Sullivan in a statement announcing Sorensen’s retirement.

Firefighting was something Sorensen dreamed of as a youngster. The idea was further ingrained with the popular 1970s’ television show Emergency! – a program about a Los Angeles Fire Department rescue crew.

Even before he left high school, Sorensen bought his first fire truck and refurbished it. Since then, he has taken on many fire truck restoration projects, He’s currently working on the restorations of two fire trucks.

“He’s been a fantastic chief,” said Gordon Kouwenberg, a longtime volunteer firefighter and Sooke Fire Rescue Service chaplain.

“It’s what he’s done for the community – not just as fire chief, but as a volunteer and the number of times he’s done things just unasked for the good of the community. He’s just given himself completely to Sooke.”

Sorensen laughed when it was suggested he’d be able to rest now he’s gone into retirement.

He is building a house and a garage, and then there are those special projects like the fire truck restorations, woodcarving and his love of carpentry.

And then there’s that one small matter of building relationships.

“After being on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week for all those year’s, it’s now time to relax and spend time with family and friends,” Sorensen said.

District officials are starting their search for a new fire chief this week.