Sooke Fire Rescue works to attract volunteers

Fire department hosts open house on June 23

From fire suppression and emergency medical responses to dealing with hazardous material responses and technical rescue operations, Sooke Fire Rescue is prepared to handle any emergency.

But as challenging as these tasks are deputy fire chief Matt Barney says another aspect of the department’s operations is equally difficult.

“We have seven career firefighters and more than 30 volunteer firefighters who make up this amazing group of people, but the reality is that maintaining those staffing levels is always going to be something we’re concerned about,” Barney said.

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“Recruitment and retention of volunteers will always be a challenge as people move away, get hired by career fire departments or simply retire. It’s my hope that by year’s end we have a roster of about 40 volunteer firefighters to meet the needs of our growing community.”

To achieve the goal, Barney and Ben Temple, a full-time member of the fire department and executive member of the Sooke Fire Fighters Local 4841, have planned unique initiatives to attract new volunteers.

On June 23, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., the department is hosting an open house with the aim of offering potential volunteers an opportunity to try some of the skills, equipment and experiences common to firefighting.

The open house is at Fire Station No. 1, 2225 Otter Point Rd.

“We’re going to give people a chance to wear the firefighting gear, handle hoses, breathe from the self-contained breathing apparatus. They’ll even have a chance to see what it feels like to be lowered from our tower in a simulation of a technical rope rescue,” Temple said.

“We’ll also be giving tours of the station and fire trucks and other equipment so potential recruits get a full picture of what we do and what tools we have at our disposal.”

Beyond potential recruits, anyone with an interest in the fire department is welcome to drop by.

In fact, he suggests the families of potential volunteers attend so they can get a sense of what the job is all about.

Firefighters will also be serving hot dogs, ice cream and drinks.

And while the department forges ahead with recruiting new volunteers, it announced three members of this year’s recruit class – Heather Lane, Alex Guitar, and Travis Steeve – have passed their final examinations and practical evaluations, and were handed their uniforms, station keys, and pagers.

“These three have worked incredibly hard since January to achieve their goals and each member has already logged their first emergency calls,” Temple said.

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