Volunteering is and has been a tradition in Sooke. Some say we are the ‘Volunteer Capital of the Country.’ The Sooke Volunteer Fire Department is one of those groups that depend on volunteers. Volunteers have been the backbone of the Sooke department for the past 100 years.
I am very concerned about the loss of volunteers to the Sooke Volunteer Fire Department over the past several years. Two-and-a-half years ago we had 51 volunteers, today we have 30 active along with five career firefighters and .5 support staff. We currently have openings for eight volunteers and would take more if people were interested. So what are we going to do about it?
We need and appreciate our volunteer firefighters who play a critical role in our community. We want to determine why they have left and investigate ways that could have kept them with the department. Equally important is finding out from the current volunteers what is needed to keep them with us. In September, I intend to reach out to past and current volunteers through a questionnaire to try to get answers to these questions. So if you are a past or current volunteer firefighter, watch for the questionnaire, we are trying to find ways help you stay in a job that is so crucial to Sooke.
One of the things I hear is that the requirements are too onerous. People just don’t have the time to volunteer for the department and still live their own lives. We will be working with the fire chief to see if there are ways that we can reduce some of these demands while still ensuring that the requirements ensure the safety of the volunteer firefighters and the public. We also want to make sure that past volunteers who want to return to the department can do so as easily as possible.
The district needs to find ways to cut through some of the red tape that gets in the way of people who just want to help out by volunteering. Fire protection is the core service that our fire department should be providing. It is my intention to work with the chief, the volunteers and the career firefighters to get back to basics and ensure we continue to provide the safe reliable fire service we are all proud of.
Mayor Wendal Milne