Sooke (BC) Marks 100 Years of Fire Service

A few years prior to the start of the First World War, Sooke (British Columbia) had a Sooke Harbour Fire Department. The equipment was kept in Mr. Mugford’s shed, and consisted of a hose reel mounted on two wooden wheels and drawn by four men with ropes and two men at the rear holding a rope to act as a brake. The hose reel and a cup presented to the department by the Canadian Pipe Company is still present in the fire hall. Charter’s Mill was once saved by the fireman using this hose reel when a brush fire was sweeping down towards the mill.

Today, a new apparatus has replaced or been added to the fleet to keep pace with the increased duties and call volume.  The 2001 pickup truck was replaced with a near new 2011 Hybrid pickup truck that was purchased as surplus from the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Another pickup truck was added in 2012, with the majority of the funding coming through a Federal JEPP grant.

With increasing medical first response calls and now having an on-duty night shift crew of two volunteers a small vehicle was needed to allow this crew to be able to respond from their homes. A used ambulance was purchased from the province and was painted to match existing fire department colours. The final addition to the fleet was in 2011 with the arrival of a used 2006 Emergency-One Rescue Pumper to replace the now worn out 1985 Mack Pumper. This well-designed truck is the department’s main emergency vehicle. Equipped with a large capacity pump, compressed air foam system, loads of equipment space and carrying the Jaws of Life, this unit can be found on most major calls.

A new facility was added in 2013 to cover the large Sunriver area of Sooke. Faced with longer response times and with several volunteer firefighters living in this area, a small fire department “Muster Station” was put into service in the parking lot of the Sunriver Sales Centre.  The 2008 Chevrolet one-ton pickup has been moved here and crews are using the old Fire Safety House as a small meeting area as well as storage for their protective clothing.  This facility has already proved itself on several occasions by providing quicker response to residents in the area as well as supplementing crews at major incidents throughout Sooke.

Faced with growing public requests for fire and life safety training, a new division was added to the fire department in 2000.  Named the Support Services Group, these volunteer members do not attend fire or rescue calls but assist at various events. This could be a school field trip to the fire hall, a training session on use of a fire extinguisher, a fire safety talk for a seniors’ group or operating a bounce house at Canada Day.  The role of support services continues to grow with members now trained in first aid, traffic control, dispatch procedures and other tasks that can assist the firefighters.

There is even a volunteer Chaplain and a psychologist in the department to assist members in dealing with the stress of responding to all types of emergency calls and dangerous situations.

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