Esquimalt Fire Department is celebrating 20 years of service, providing the township with vital resources and community support.
Established in 2003, the fire department had previously been a part of a combined force, including the police force.
The fire rescue service, comprised of 24 members, specializes in fire suppression, prevention, structural collapses and various rescue strategies but also prioritizes connecting with Esquimalt charities and schools.
The Esquimalt Firefighters Charitable Foundation provides support to various organizations, including the Rainbow Kitchen, Lions Baseball, the Esquimalt Neighborhood House Society and the Mustard Seed Foundation.
In 2022, the department completed a four-year strategic plan that outlines their priorities for the coming years, focusing on mental health and wellness, said Fire Chief Steve Serbic,
“We are working hard to be a department that encourages openness and honesty communication,” Serbic said. “That is a big deal within the first-responder world but one of the things that comes from that is we want address emotional and behavioural health issues.”
One major goal for the department is eliminating the stigma of discussing mental health problems, especially when it pertains to responding to traumatic calls.
“We empower our officers to implement physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual well-being activities,” Serbic said. “We know people may struggle when they go to a traumatic call and we want to address that. As a department, we are one so we really wanted to embody that going forward.”
The department’s updated crest reflects the notion of the “oneness” of the force with Lekwungen language, meaning “we are one” and features a ladder and hydrant, as well as the Township of Esquimalt’s coat-of-arms. The wave pattern on the new crest symbolizes the origin of Esquimalt’s name which means “place of shoaling waters.”
Serbic said he considers his profession to be among the best on the planet and those who serve with show dedication and commitment to helping their community. The strategic plan really allowed the department to focus on concrete ways to implement their goals of inclusivity, compassion and openness.
“We have weekly check-ins for our firefighters, for our captains, even in our admin level we have check-ins now and there is no stress around it. We’ve created that environment very quickly,” Serbic said.
The department will hold a banquet Feb. 11 to celebrate the anniversary and recognize the hard work of the past years.
“We are all very excited about the future, we work in a very cool community and we’ve been able to actually add value to our service, and I think that is one of the exciting things about being in a small community,” Serbic said. “In Esquimalt, we are very lucky that we are able to do things with the community that we feel very proud to serve.”