Most of the donations the Salvation Army receives are of clothes or household items, but in late February the Saanich fire and police departments made a much larger donation to the local branch of the charity.
The Salvation Army took possession, on Feb. 21, of the municipality’s old emergency command vehicle – a school bus that had been gutted and retrofitted in 1992. For two decades it was used by the two departments at serious incidents to give first responders a place to work.
About a year ago, the Sally Ann took its aging Beacon Bus off the road. The vehicle helped volunteers provide meals, clothing and services to emergency workers and community members.
Kyla Ferns, communications co-ordinator for the Salvation Army, says the donation from Saanich will help fill the void left by the absence of the Beacon Bus.
“It enables us to serve the community in another capacity. There’s a small section in the bus that’s a designated counselling area. When you’re at an emergency event, counselling and being able to debrief with people involved is so important,” she said.
The organization plans to add some kitchen equipment inside the bus, as well, to provide food and beverage services at events like apartment fires and search and rescue operations. Ferns says the bus is in great mechanical shape and they hope to get at least another decade of life out of it.
Saanich fire chief Mike Burgess says the new mobile command unit could arrive as early as mid-March.
“It’s a purpose-built vehicle with the latest technologies in it that are capable of supporting fire, police and emergency communications,” he said. “The technologies in this are fairly significant and allows us to have a mobile command and office on site.”
Ferns says the organization is grateful that Saanich reached out to donate the vehicle.
“We work with Saanich and with the other emergency departments. We have this partnership, (so) I know Saanich was very pleased to be able to assist us in this way because we provide assistance to them,” she said.
– with files from