Letters: Shirley FD hs the expertise needed

Chair of commission responds to letter previous from Shirley resident

During the past few weeks a number of letters have been sent to your paper questioning the ability of the Shirley Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD) to respond to incidents within the community and service area. The SVFD service area extends between Muir and Sandcut Creeks for firefighting services and between Muir and Loss Creeks for BC Ambulance Service call-outs. As chair of the commission I want to provide facts about the SVFD and its members’ abilities.

The SVFD is a strong team of Shirley residents. They volunteer their time to provide fire protection service and safety for residents and the public travelling through the area. Although only a small, rural, community-based department the SVFD has the ability to provide community-based incident response on a 24-hour basis within the service area. The strength of the SVFD is based on the dedicated community commitment made by the individual members of the SVFD working as a team.

Administrative matters related to the Shirley Volunteer Fire Department are the responsibility of the Shirley Fire Rescue & Emergency Response Commission (Commission) established by bylaw of the Capital Regional District (CRD) with full authority of the CRD in matters related to the functioning of the Commission. The Board is composed of six elected members from Shirley and also includes the Juan de Fuca EA Area Director. The Commission deals with administrative and budget matters related to the SVFD.

Since being elected to the Commission in November 2010, I note the qualifications of the SVFD are currently at their highest level in terms of training and expertise and they continue to improve. The SVFD has a strong core group of Shirley residents who attend weekly Wednesday night practices, with the same core group responding to most call-outs. The members of the SVFD are trained in Firefighting Levels 1 and 2, Hazardous Material Incidents, Traffic Control, First Responder Level 3 and Incident Command. In addition, five members are fully qualified and licensed to operate the large pumper fire truck and other vehicles in the SVFD fleet. Over and above that, some members have advanced occupational health and safety training in addition to their training with the SVFD. The SVFD also has three dedicated dispatchers who attend at the hall during call-outs and practices. Not only are the SVFD firefighters well qualified to fulfill their roles they are backed up by trained communication operators.

The chief and the members of the SVFD maintain positive, on-going relationships and mutual aid agreements with other local departments including Otter Point, Sooke, East Sooke and Metchosin. Training with qualified instructors from other local departments, specifically Otter Point, Sooke and Metchosin, enables cost-effective  and hands-on training opportunities for the SVFD. Training locally also builds strong relationships between mutual aid agreement participants. Mutual aid responses are triggered when a department that has signed an agreement needs help at a scene or is unable to respond to an incident in their area because the department is tied up with another scene; the second department is then called out. This occurs occasionally with the Shirley Fire District and, when called out, the Otter Point Volunteer Fire Department, and occasionally the Sooke Fire Department, responds. The agreement is reciprocal.

Recent letters have referenced the commitment and dedication to the SVFD and the Shirley community of our most recent former Fire Chief. In September the Commission accepted the resignation submitted by the former chief. The former chief had held the position since mid-2009 and had been Deputy Chief since 2007. He made a dedicated and significant contribution to the SVFD and the Shirley community during that time. Although his resignation was not anticipated by the Commission resignations are common in work and volunteer situations; individuals make decisions based on their personal choices. The SVFD and the Commission have adapted to the unexpected change and continue to provide fire protection services to the community.

The duties of the chief have been assumed by the Deputy Chief who has been with the SVFD for three years. The Deputy Chief has Fire Fighter Levels 1 and 2, Hazardous Material and Incident Command qualifications as well as First Responder, Fire Vehicle Operation licensing and Traffic Control training.

The experience, training and qualifications of the Shirley firefighters are of equally high caliber and enable the SVFD to continue providing the required dedicated, on-going, community-based level of fire protection and public safety demanded by the Shirley residents and the community.

Gerard V. LeBlanc, Chair

Shirley Fire Rescue & Emergency Response Commission