New Victoria fire chief gets official welcome

Victoria emergency services reach out to community

Victoria’s new fire chief will be given an official welcome tomorrow at the Victoria Conference Centre.

The change of command ceremony is a formality – Bruce has been in the job for the past month – but his appointment represents the latest in a string of new faces in top city roles including city manager Jason Johnson, Victoria Police Department Chief Frank Elsner and several pending replacements for retiring department directors.

Bruce said he wants to be a part of a “change of attitude” at city hall, where collaboration between departments is a growing priority.

“Given the right opportunities, people are more inclined to add a little bit extra, and we’re working closely with other city departments to knock down the silos a little bit to get things done efficiently and effectively,” he said.

Bruce becomes the 33rd fire chief of the 123-member Victoria Fire Department after Jeff Lambert stepped down in May following an extended medical leave.

The new chief said modern firefighting has been complicated by the number of high-rise buildings constructed in downtown Victoria over the past two decades.

“We have just about every kind of building construction that exists in the downtown core,” he said. “It provides for a bit of a different strategy to firstly conduct any rescues that are needed. By the time we get up there, the delay can change the risks.”

Another concern is the increasingly fortified structure of modern buildings.

“In the past, those exits would have allowed you to just walk out. Now they could find a locked gate or gated window,” Bruce said.

Firefighters make a point of walking through larger buildings to see “the bones” of a building in a non-emergency situation, where fire inspectors highlight abnormal emergency access routes, he added.

A Victoria resident since 1978, Bruce has been with Victoria Fire Department since 1993 and progressively worked his way up the ranks, most recently holding the position of deputy fire chief.

He previously served as a marine engineer with the Royal Canadian Navy.

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