Sooke Fire Rescue has hired two full-time firefighters to it ranks – a pair that will help the department improve its level of service and provide more community outreach.
“The hiring committee is confident that the District of Sooke would not find other candidates who are as qualified, with the required skills and ability to fit into the department, as the two successful candidates,” Fire Chief Kenn Mount said.
Ben Temple and Grayson Kerr joined the department as career firefighters on Nov. 6.
Temple has spent several years as a volunteer with Sooke Fire Rescue and is the past president of the Sooke Volunteer Firefighters Association, while Kerr was a member of the Metchosin Fire Department and has experience as a bylaw and community safety officer with the City of Langford.
“They’ll both be a huge benefit to us,” Mount said.
In the short term, Kerr and Temple will bring relief to other career firefighters working in Sooke.
“To meet the increasing demands of our growing community, the four career members that currently serve the Sooke Fire Rescue Department have been required to commit to numerous overtime hours,” Mount said.
”While this approach was a somewhat feasible short-term solution, it is no longer sustainable, as the risk of staff burnout is high – if not inevitable.”
Council supported hiring the two new firefighters earlier this year – 178 people applied for the jobs.
The plan was to hire one firefighter Oct. 1 and one in 2018, but it was later decided to hire the two members concurrently to save money, time, provide additional resources for recruit training, and community outreach.
Over the last two years, Sooke Fire Rescue has seen a dramatic increase due to development and hikes in nuisance complaints.
“It just feels like we’re playing catch up,” Mount said.
Sooke Fire rescue now has four career firefighters, 33 volunteers and six recruits, who will begin training in January.
Mount said ideally Sooke should have a department of about 55 members.
“The morale is very good in the department, and we have a very strong functioning department here,” he said.