Sooke marks death of former fire chief

Former Sooke fire chief Bill Stephenson, remembered by firefighters as a “very wonderful person,” died Sunday in hospital.

Former Sooke fire chief Bill Stephenson, remembered by firefighters as a “very wonderful person,” died Sunday in hospital.

He was 85.

Stephenson was the longest serving member of Sooke Fire Rescue when he retired in 2010, after 62 years of active service.

He served as fire chief from 1957 to 1962 and again from 1976 to 1977.

Stephenson was a well respected member of the fire department and within the community.

Sooke Fire Rescue Station No. 1 was named in honour of him and his contributions to the department.

“He was very well respected by firefighters, a very likeable person. There’s nothing bad you could say about him and there’s nothing bad he said about anybody,” said deputy chief Matt Barney, who worked with Stephenson for more than 21 years.

Former fire chief Steve Sorensen, who retired earlier this year, considered Stephenson a mentor.

“He was a great guy, level headed, calm. He was well respected, not just in Sooke but the fire service everywhere,” he said.

“He was a really good guy and a really good friend.”

Stephenson joined the fire department at age 17 in 1948. He served as firefighter, held the rank of captain from 1977 until April 1999 and was deputy chief from April 1999 until March 2010.

After he retired from firefighting, Stephenson remained active with the firefighters association and truck restoration.

As well as being Sooke’s longest serving firefighter, Stephenson also holds the same distinction  for Western Canada. Only one person in Ontario has served longer.

And firefighting has become a family tradition, with wife Ruby an active member of the fire department’s women’s auxiliary until 2001 and other family members serving as firefighters.

No funeral or memorial arrangements were announced by press time.