Fire departments in Otter Point and East Sooke play an important role in providing safe, fun activities for the community on Halloween night.
It’s a long tradition in both communities and one that is eagerly anticipated by children and adults alike.
Doug Thompson, the president of the East Sooke Fire Brigade, said it’s one of his favourite times of the year.
“We started doing this about 38 years ago. It’s the biggest event we have in East Sooke and everyone looks forward to coming out and having fun,” Thompson said.
Festivities kick off at 6:30 p.m. on Halloween night at the East Sooke Community Hall where the fire department plays host to about 200 children and their parents who arrive in costume, ready to celebrate the holiday.
“It’s a big social event in East Sooke. Everyone knows each other and they all have so much fun,” Fire Brigade treasurer Anita Preto said.
She described the way that laughter fills the air when its time for the costume competition.
“The little ones get so excited. The top four costumes all get a prize, but really, they’re all winners.”
The brigade provides free hot dogs and hot chocolate and all the adults bring bags of candy to share with the neighborhood children.
At one point in the evening, Thompson said, the adults form a large circle around the bonfire and the children go round to collect their treats.
“There’s no house to house trick-or-treat that happens in East Sooke. The houses are far apart and there are no lights on the roadways. It just wouldn’t be safe,” Thompson said.
He also noted October is bear and cougar season and that sending children off into the darkness carrying bags of candy would be less than prudent.
Similar celebrations happen on Halloween night in Otter Point where the volunteer fire department partners with Camp Barnard to present Halloween Night Bonfire and Fireworks.
“We’ve been doing this for at least 25 years over at the lake at Camp Barnard,” Fire Chief John McCrea said.
“A few hundred people come out in costume and it turns into a community party. It’s a great way to get everyone together for a Halloween celebration.”
Again, free hot dogs and hot chocolate are the order of the day and children are provided with candy treats.
The highlight of both celebrations are the fireworks displays.
At Camp Barnard, the pyrotechnics are reflected on the surface of Young Lake, much to the delight of onlookers.
In East Sooke, the display takes place at Coppermine Park under the watchful eyes of the firefighters who are in attendance with a fire engine.
“It really wouldn’t do if we started a fire, would it?” Thompson said with a chuckle.
Both events are provided free of charge.