Saanich firefighter Trevor Stubbings washes the department’s new engine at fire station No. 2  on Elk Lake Road.

Saanich firefighter Trevor Stubbings washes the department’s new engine at fire station No. 2 on Elk Lake Road.

Saanich’s new $550,000 fire truck takes to the streets

Capt. Dave Brown remembers well his first days as a “tailgater,” riding in the back of a Saanich fire engine.

His captain would slide open a window and through it, pass extinguishers and bark commands to young Brown, who was left out in the elements in an open cab known as the jump seat.

“The old days when I started, we didn’t have this nice cab right here,” says Brown, sitting inside the department’s newest truck with long time firefighter and truck driver/operator Bob Schuttinga.

“We’d sit out in the snow and ice back then,” Brown says of the exposed seating. “Everybody’s gotten soft and wimpy, so we have to have them inside now.”

The nearly 50 years of combined experience between the two hasn’t dampened their desire to share a laugh over their profession. Both men call their careers with the Saanich department a dream – one made even dreamier with the recent addition of the Smeal pumper truck.

The $550,000 vehicle arrived from Nebraska late last year and came into service in January, following in-house customizing. Equipped to carry 2,650 litres of water and 189 gallons of foam (a 50 per cent increase in capacity from three decades ago), the diesel-powered engine is built tough to handle the demands of the job. All the gadgets and technology on board – the hydraulic jaws of life, fully automated ladders, electronic pump valves – make the work of firefighters that much easier.

Just press a button in the cab and winter chains drop down onto the massive tires of the 10-metre-long vehicle.

“(The trucks) basically all follow the same idea, but they all have their own idiosyncrasies that we have to be familiar with,” Brown says.

Training exercises are scheduled daily to keep firefighters up to speed and comfortable with each new piece of equipment as it’s employed.

As the firefighters show off their tools – “gas sniffers” for carbon dioxide detection are clipped to the console and oxygen tanks, and boots beneath the seat bottoms and backs are positioned and ready for the tailgaters – a faint announcement comes over the hall’s sound system. Schuttinga pops open the door to his left and within seconds, Brown has his hand-held radio tuned to the same frequency.

They receive the message: Saanich is now on call for the Victoria Fire Department, whose staff is stretched thin responding to other calls.

Brown laughs at their speedy response to the radio murmur.

“It’s like a robin listening for a worm,” he says.

His co-worker closes the door and the two continue the tour of the truck.

The new vehicle is expected to serve as one of the primary response vehicles for 10-15 years. After that it may be used as a backup or sold to a smaller department or private company. For Brown, who plans to retire sometime in the near future, and Schuttinga, this truck is likely to outlast their final years of service.

They applaud the department for allowing veteran firefighters to stay current with new technologies and among new members every year.

“I’ve met firefighters from all over the world in all different kinds of departments and they’re all the same type of guys, with a goal to serve the public and do the best job they can,” Brown says. “I don’t think that aspect of the job has changed … Once you’re on, it’s a great career.”

Adds Schuttinga: “It’s gone fast.”

nnorth@saanichnews.com

Technology of the trade

Each fire engine comes equipped with a thermal imaging camera, or TIC. The hand-held device, used by firefighters to detect even the lowest levels of heat, is linked to a screen in the vehicle of the battalion chief for viewing. The sensitive camera is used to locate smouldering flames between walls, after chimney fires or during the search of a smoke-filled room. TICs can detect heat levels as low as those left behind by footsteps.

By the numbers

• Area served: 103.4 square kilometres, 114,000 residents

• Fire stations: 3

• Uniformed personnel: 110

• Municipalities served by Saanich dispatch: 6 (Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Central Saanich, North Saanich, Sidney and Saanich proper)

Just Posted

BC Housing has brought in sanitation trailers to the former Mount Tolmie Hospital site so its current residents can access clean water, showers, sinks and toilets after a collapsed sewer pipe impacted water service to the building. (Google Streetview)
Mount Tolmie Hospital homelessness shelter using sanitation trailers after pipe collapse

Travelodge shelter residents faced intermittent hot water supply in late May, early June

COVID-19 exposures have been reported at Colquitz Middle School and Tillicum Elementary School, both on June 14. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Two Saanich schools report COVID-19 exposures

Exposures reported at Colquitz Middle School and Tillicum Elementary School

An eastern cottontail rabbit on the UVic campus. (Evert Lindquist/News Staff)
Wild rabbits persist at the University of Victoria

Feral rabbits are still absent, but another non-native species has arrived on campus

Sooke RCMP seized cocaine, ketamine, MDMA, prescription pills, $6,000 cash, a machete and pepper spray during a bust June 15. (Courtesy of Sooke RCMP)
Sooke RCMP seize drugs, machete, pepper spray

Man arrested near Evergreen Centre following drug deal

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Photos displayed at a vigil for former Nanaimo outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found June 3 and whose death RCMP are investigating as a homicide. (News Bulletin photo)
‘We need to do better,’ says mother of woman killed in Nanaimo

Vigil held for former outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found downtown June 3

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

Premier of Manitoba Brian Pallister speaks at a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski
Provincial leaders want more federal money for health care, plan to meet in fall

Premiers ask Ottawa to increase its share of overall health spending to 35 per cent from 22 per cent

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

Most Read