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Sooke Fire Rescue hopes to hire six more firefighters

Additional firefighters over the next three years will achieve 24-hour coverage at Station No. 1
Sooke Fire Rescue is adding two firefighters to address population growth. (Sooke News Files)

Sooke Fire Rescue plans to add six more firefighters over the next three years.

In the Fire Master Plan completed in 2022, nine areas were identified for improvement, and recommendations were provided for implementing best practices, including 24-hour career firefighters on duty at Station One.

To achieve that objective, Sooke Fire Rescue wants to add two career firefighters in 2024, two more in 2025, and another two in 2026. The current model is 11 hours a day, with an on-call duty officer covering the remaining 13 hours.

Sooke council endorsed the implications of the fire department’s staffing request at the Feb. 28 council meeting as part of a strategy to be included in 2023 to 2027 five-year financial plan.

The plan will be forwarded to district staff to determine its feasibility and cost implications before it is discussed at a budget meeting later this month.

Sooke Fire Rescue Chief Ted Ruiter said the additions would enable 24-hour coverage and move the department into a better position regarding staffing, community safety, and the safety of firefighters.

“It will allow us to make a quicker response,” he said. “Time delays hamper good outcomes.”

Ruiter thanked council for their continued support for the services the department provides.

According to a district staff report, the current staffing model will not support the future growth in Sooke, specifically due to the continued trend of high-density developments and low to mid-rise buildings to address the housing crisis.

The report noted that Sooke Fire Rescue’s on-duty staffing level has remained unchanged for the past 13 years and has not kept up with the rapid population growth. The population in 2011 was 11,435 compared to 16,086 in 2021, an increase of 32 per cent.

RELATED: Sooke Fire Rescue's race against clock hits staffing snag

Sooke Fire Rescue is considered an “all hazards” department, and the district has adopted services levels that include responding to emergency medical, motor vehicle and hazardous material incidents, alarm activations, electrical hazards, explosions, high-angle rope rescue and public assistance, as well as the full range of fire responses.

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said additional firefighters are needed to meet call increases in population and call volume pressures.

Salary and benefits for a first-year firefighter cost $101,000, with Sooke Fire Rescue’s community safety budget accounting for 20 per cent of the district’s overall budget for 2022.

Budgeting for two additional firefighters in 2022 was reallocated from the existing paid on-call budget and will not impact property taxes this year.

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About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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