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Oak Bay changes the name of Fireman’s Park

New sign for Firefighter’s Park on the way
Fire Chief Darren Hughes, right, pulls the old Firemans Park sign off ahead of the parks name change. The new sign for Firefighters Park is coming. (Oak Bay Fire Department Twitter)

In the name of inclusivity, Oak Bay is changing the name of Fireman’s Park to Firefighter’s Park.

The term fireman has long been abandoned amongst firefighting organizations in Canada and it was only a matter of time for the park, noted said Oak Bay Fire Chief Darren Hughes.

“It’s one of those changes that’s come. The fire services is an old organization and this is a positive change,” Hughes said.

Council approved the name change three years ago but it took a while to actualize. Hughes and company took the old sign down on Friday.

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The cost of the new sign is being shared by the Oak Bay Firefighters Charitable Foundation, Oak Bay Fire Department and Oak Bay Park who ordered the new sign that should be ready to install in a few weeks, Hughes said.

There are actually two elements to the name change, Hughes said. One is inclusivity. The other is that while the term fireman has long been applied to firefighters it actually had its own definition.

“My grandfather was a fireman on a ship, an actual fireman that shoveled coal into the fire to feed the boiler. Fireman was also conventionally used in children’s books and literature for firefighters, but that’s what it meant to be a fireman for my grandfather, and he would often point that out,” Hughes said.

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The Oak Bay Fire Department does not have a woman firefighter yet though it does have two women on staff, Eileen Grant, the Emergency Program Manager, and an administrative assistant.

It’s not for a lack trying, Hughes said. In Oak Bay Fire Department’s last hiring wave, which is done jointly with Esquimalt Fire Department, there were 100 applicants who wrote the entry exams. Only one was a woman.

“Recruitment is a challenge. It’s on the radar for the next round. We’re certainly looking into why the applicants are low… to identify what those reasons are. We have a welcome environment,” Hughes said.

Firefighter’s Park has a long tradition as a popular playground and as the home of youth baseball. It is also home to one of Oak Bay’s most popular annual events, when the firefighters set light to a massive bonfire and let children take turns spending the night putting the fire out with a fire hose.

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