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Central Saanich Fire celebrates 7 decades of serving community

Veteran firefighters recall the old days of battling blazes

The fire service museum on Mt. Newton X Road is bursting at the seams with history, and the men who’ve served the longest seem to know most of it.

That history is revealed as Central Saanich Fire Rescue celebrates its 70th anniversary with a community block party at the museum on Sept. 18.

Myriad old photos adorn the walls just inside the entrance of the Central Saanich Volunteer Fire Museum.

Even as they enter, Deputy Chief Rob Nelson and Assistant Chief Forrest Owens point out the photo of the first hall. The site housed the fire department, police station, municipal hall, public works yard and more. They rattle off names of the neighbours while each taking turns pointing out sites and remembering, sometimes mis-remembering and being corrected by the other.

Both have spent careers in the Central Saanich service in a variety of roles from volunteer to management – Nelson for 45 years and Owens for 35.

At the back of the museum, behind the trio of former service vehicles, a stand of pages and clippings reveal the stories and images of a fire service celebrating 70 years this year.

READ ALSO: New recruit switches fire chief helmet from Sooke to Central Saanich come September

Even in their three and four decades, the community, nature of fires and equipment have changed dramatically.

The average resident can see the changes in gear for health and safety reasons – from waist-high boots and helmets to today’s full breathing apparatus and fire-resistant turnout gear.

The community and demographic has shifted from strictly rural, with the steady arrival of housing developments, including multi-family and multi-storey buildings. Plus there’s the Keating industrial area.

Then there are the fires themselves. Furniture, what they call “legacy furniture,” good old wood and fibre, would take about 30 minutes to flash over. New stuff burns hot and fast, meaning so do house fires.

But over the years, Central Saanich – now featuring seven career firefighters and 45 volunteer members – has levelled up to meet demands with staffing and training. Many members will be on hand to share the history, and modern tales during the event.

All the antique and modern fire trucks will be out on display, alongside the standard kids activities and a barbecue. All food and activities are by donation, with all proceeds benefitting the Saanich Peninsula Food Bank. Donations of cash or non-perishable food items are gladly accepted.

The Central Saanich fire 70th anniversary open house is Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Central Saanich Fire Museum, 1901 Mt Newton Cross Rd.

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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