Chief Ken Mount looks forward to a great 2019 as his department continues to improve and grow. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

Chief Ken Mount looks forward to a great 2019 as his department continues to improve and grow. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

Sooke’s Fire Rescue recognized as one of the best

Optimism returns after years of understaffing

It was a good year for Sooke’s fire department and the future looks even brighter, according to fire chief Ken Mount.

“We’ve gone through a lot of administrative changes, and the staff have now learned who we are and what your priorities are,” said Mount.

“We were still recovering from being severely understaffed for over a year with three people doing the job of six, but the guys really stepped up during that period and kept us going. I’m proud of them.”

One of the challenges faced by the Department in the last couple of years and one that is sure to continue into the future is the seasonal battle against wildfires.

“We’ve helped out with the provincial fire efforts and those efforts have shown that Sooke Fire Rescue is at the forefront of skill and organization. We’re recognized as a unit that really knows what it’s doing,” said Mount.

In part, that recognition comes as a result of the exemplary training in which the largely volunteer department engages.

In 2018 that training received recognition as the department’s Captain Norris Jones was honoured by being awarded the BC Fire Training Officer of the Year award by the BC Firefighters Association.

“We have training every Thursday night and we get a remarkable level of participation from our volunteers. In the year to come, that level of commitment will allow us to continue to improve.”

In 2019 the department will be continuing to play a bit of catch up in ensuring that the department’s equipment is up to snuff.

“We had fallen behind and a few of our trucks were spending more time in the shop than on the road,” said Mount.

“But we have a new truck coming in in 2019 and we’re actually in good shape with a reasonably prudent plan that will keep our fleet in good shape.”

The Sooke Fire Rescue’s participation in wildfire control has actually helped in that effort as they are reimbursed more than $200,000 a year for equipment wear and tear when they participate in the provincial efforts.

The new year will also see Mount dealing with a new District Council at a time when the community is growing and new demands will be facing the department.

“I’m really very excited to be working with this council. It’s the first time in a while where we’ve seen a positive, respectful approach to understanding the needs of the fire department and the challenges we face in staffing, equipment, facilities and funding. I think it’s going to be a great year.”