Lately, there’s been many oohs and aahs coming from the Sooke Fire Hall, but it’s not sirens or fire trucks making the noise, it’s the firefighters – over the latest piece of equipment.
Weighing in at a few pounds and made by hand entirely out of wood, it is a 1:25th scale replica model of the department’s flagship, the Rosenbauer Cobra ladder fire truck.
“This is the biggest and most complex truck I’ve ever built,” said Sooke Fire Chief Steven Sorensen, who shares a lifelong passion for building wooden models, fire trucks in particular.
This is the chief’s 12th truck, joining a rich collection of existing models he’s built over the years, most now displayed in his office. With detail and functionality though, the Rosenbauer easily is the biggest accomplishment. Or, as Sorensen puts it, it’s the result of a lifelong process.
“Each one gets a little better. Like anything, you refine it as you go along,” he said.
The project took five years, more than 3,000 hours of work and hundreds and hundreds of meticulously created wooden parts that not only had to be exactly to scale, but to also fit and work together properly.
No doubt, this wooden masterpiece is teeming with super-cool features, such as a fully functioning ladder system that stretches out and folds into itself along with retractable support mounts and a rotating superstructure, all like the real deal.
Devil’s in the details too, including switches and control dials on the sides, ladders in the rear with a functioning sliding door, full interior with opening doors and proper firefighting equipment. Even the seats fold up and down.
Sorensen recalled the biggest challenge was the ladder and the accompanying mechanism, which was initially prone to warping or snapping off altogether.
“All pieces were individually cut out and made to fit together, and then held all together as the glue sets to keep it straight, because it’s really easy to warp and twist,” Sorensen said.
It did help a lot to have the real truck to use as a visual reference. Sorensen used factory scaled drawings, and lots of photographs to help with the truck’s overall proportions.
Sorensen picked up the woodcarving hobby from his dad, a professional carpenter who ran a business building cabinets. At age nine, Sorensen built his first fire truck out of wood using basic tools in his dad’s workshop.
Now, with the flagship fire truck finished, Sorensen turns his sights on the next project, perhaps even adding features such as LED lights to the existing one.
“I might now have to do the pumper truck too, have a little set,” he said.
Sorensen hopes to find a place or an event to display the big ladder fire truck, though, despite the collective groans of adults and kids alike, it’s not a toy.