Saanich explores idea of unifying fire departments with Victoria, Esquimalt and Oak Bay

Saanich explores idea of unifying fire departments with Victoria, Esquimalt and Oak Bay

In case of fire, you’re urged to have a plan, and the District of Saanich is putting one on the table that could eventually lead to integration of fire services in the region’s four core municipalities.

“This is the first baby step on Monday,” says Saanich Coun. Colin Plant. On Monday, April 29, a report prepared by Saanich Fire Chief Michael Kaye goes in front of council exploring the merits of amalgamating the fire departments of Saanich, Victoria, Oak Bay and Esquimalt.

Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch says the idea of aligning departments is no indictment of current service.

“If we’re looking at this community growing the way we’re expecting it to over the next couple of decades, we should be looking at all of our services, including fire,” he says.

Debate started last night on social media when Plant posted a link on X, outlining the report.

The Saanich councillor is also quick to clarify that this exploratory process is not a reflection of substandard service. “Each municipality has excellent fire services,” he says.

Increased densification in cities means taller buildings and a literal changing landscape when it comes to fire response. There are also changes in national health and safety requirements for firefighters.

“We need to have bigger crews on site and they need to be relieved more frequently, and the requirements for equipment has increased,” says Murdoch.

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The Oak Bay Fire Hall is pictured on April 25, 2024. (CHEK News)

Keeping up with new regulations is a challenge for smaller departments. Plant says one big force would increase buying power and training opportunities. A service without borders could also improve response times.

“There are some situations where the firehall in Saanich is actually closer to the border to Victoria than the Victoria Fire Department,” says Plant.

And since we’re looking down the road at mutual aid, Plant says amalgamating fire departments could just be the start.

“I think the opportunity to explore a unified fire department for the core would potentially lead to a new discussion about police services. I think that’s reasonable,” he says.


Jordan CunninghamJordan Cunningham

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