This year has proven to be the busiest year ever for the members of Sooke Fire Rescue Service.
To date, the fire department has responded to over 850 calls for service. These calls range from smoke alarm activations, to motor vehicle crashes, medical calls and major structure fires. Many people in the community seem to forget or maybe are not even aware that the majority of the firefighters in Sooke are unpaid volunteers who respond at all hours to emergency calls in their community.
Currently the department consists of 25 volunteer firefighters, five career firefighters and four new volunteer recruits. In addition there are five volunteer public educators that deliver fire and life safety programs to various groups upon request. The Sooke Fire Rescue Service also oversees the Sooke Emergency Plan, where another 20 volunteers are active in the ESS Program.
Some of the highlights this year included:
The replacement of a 26-year-old pumper truck with a new (used) fire truck from Arizona. This six-year-old fire truck was less than half the price of a new fire truck and will serve the community well for many years.
After 41 years away from the community, Sooke’s first real fire truck returned. This 70- year-old truck is now being lovingly restored by the volunteers of the Sooke Firefighters Association with hopes of having it completed in time to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the fire department in 2013.
A Community Wildfire Protection Plan was completed for this area thanks to grant funding through UBCM. This plan identifies those areas most at risk to wildfire and provides ideas on how to mitigate some of the associated hazards.
Continued to upgrade the abilities of the Sooke Emergency Plan to better cope with major disasters. Work is almost complete on an Emergency Power System at the Community Hall which will be used as a Public Reception Centre during an emergency situation. New supplier agreements have been completed with many of the key local businesses. The new wharf at the Sooke Public Boat Launch received the first of four spill containment boom reels that will be installed at various points along the waterfront to provide marine protection in event of a spill.
After 26 years of service, a tired looking Fire Station 2 was given a face-lift with several upgrades including a new “historical” sign, a fresh coat of paint and the installation of an emergency generator.
Firefighters participated in over 6,500 hours of firefighter training programs and community events this year and another 4000 hours were devoted to emergency and non-emergency calls.
Several very successful fundraising events were taken on by the fire department including a relief effort for victims of the Japanese Earthquake and providing support to the Sooke Christmas Bureau.
Sooke firefighters volunteered at many community events including the construction of a frightful haunted house for Safe Halloween and assistance at the Sooke Subaru Triathlon.
Some of the more memorable emergency calls of 2011 were:
An arson fire at a house on Rhodonite Drive early in the morning completely destroyed the unoccupied home. Firefighters from Sooke and Otter Point were called and able to prevent the fire from spreading to neighbouring houses.
Another suspicious fire destroyed a large fifth wheel trailer at a property on Kaltasin Road.
A total of 18 chimney fires have been attended to this year. Residents are reminded of the importance of having their chimneys regularly cleaned and maintained.
An early January snow storm had firefighters responding to multiple car crashes that day.
The Jaws of Life were used several times this year to free victims involved in serious car crashes. At two of the accidents scenes, those injured were members of the fire department.
Members of the Sooke Hazardous Materials Response Team attended three major requests for assistance in 2011 including the fuel tanker crash in Goldstream Park, a chlorine leak at a Victoria apartment building and an ammonia leak at a Langford sports complex.
A serious brush fire was discovered just before dark up in Harbour View Park. Crews responded quickly and were able to contain the fire before it hit the forest and the adjoining hydro power lines.
2012 wish list:
Recruit additional volunteer firefighters. Sooke Fire Rescue is currently accepting applications for the 2012 training class.
Continue to upgrade training programs to provide firefighters the skills they will need to deal with potential emergencies in the new larger / multi story buildings now be constructed in Sooke.
Develop a weekend training program to supplement the current Thursday night training sessions, thus allow volunteer firefighters more flexibility in attending training classes.
Complete the fire departments long range master plan.
Update the Sooke Emergency Plan and seek new volunteers for the emergency program.
Continue preparations for the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the fire department in 2013.
Expand the fire departments public education commitment to provide life safety training programs to the community.
And finally, the members of Sooke Fire Rescue Service and the Sooke Emergency Program would like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season.