Otter Point is a rural residential community of approximately 1150 properties covering approximately 24 square kilometers. It has a population of approximately 2500 with the majority of our homes nestled in the trees on small acreages. It is located directly west of Sooke and approximately 50 minutes west of Victoria, on southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. (See maps here)
The Otter Point Volunteer Fire Department was established in January 1980, as an all-volunteer department. It is currently headed by Fire Chief John McCrea and has a complement of approximately 25 members, including the Fire Chief, Assistant Chief, Captain, and a Lieutenant. The Assistant Chief is our Training Officer and is also a full-time operational support person.
We started from a very humble beginning in the early years but our founding members had the foresight to set very high goals for the growth and development of the fire department. A twenty-year plan was established that would see the hall paid off, two new pumpers built, and a new water tender in service before 2000. There was also an emphasis put on training to high standards and keeping current with the latest technology in fire fighting.
Otter Point enjoys the ocean on one border and vast forest land on the other. Our district is defined by the term “intermixed” and we face the threat of potential forest fire every summer.
The members respond to over 170 calls each year. For 2021 there were 181 calls. Approximately half of these would be first responder calls. The rest would be fire calls, chimney fires, MVA calls, and other public assistant calls. We enjoy a very positive mutual aid agreement with Sooke, Metchosin, and East Sooke districts to the east and with Shirley district to the west. We also respond to fire and MVA calls in the forestry land which borders our community.
The Otter Point Fire Department met all of its goals set in the original 20-year plan and so much more. We have also completed a seismic upgrade and installed a generator which will allow the fire hall to be used as an emergency coordination center and shelter in the event of an earthquake, tsunami, or other disaster situations. We have added a rescue truck used for first response with the capability of initial attack at hard-to-access fires. This truck has a compressed air foam (CAF) system along with 300 gallons of water.
By the late 1990’s the Otter Point firefighters had identified the need to have affordable Justice Institute-accredited training available on lower Vancouver Island and the idea was born to build the Otter Point Training Centre. About two years went into the planning and research phase with the majority of this work being done by Jarvis Seabrook. Jarvis was the original project coordinator and has contributed countless volunteer hours to the project.
With the sale of a piece of property, initial funding was established and the ground was broken in early 2001. The majority of the labour has been done by our own multi-talented firefighters.
The main structure of the training centre was formed by using five shipping containers. Doors, windows, and staircases were installed. The interior resembles a home with a kitchen and living area downstairs, and a bedroom and bathroom upstairs. There are also lower and upper burn rooms lined with padgenite panels added to one side of the main area. The layout lends itself to much versatility and the simulation of a variety of scenarios. The burn rooms have been fitted with sensors, controls, and a fan system with redundant safety systems built in. WCB has inspected the centre and is pleased with the safety systems in place.
We are currently burning wood pallets and are able to experience fires of 500° F at the five-foot level and 700° F plus at the ceiling level. This provides for some exciting and realistic training experiences.
The project has been completed but we always looking for ways to improve the facility to enhance the training experience. We have installed props consisting of a dumpster fire, a propane tank fire, a simulated fuel spill pit fire, and a car fire in order to achieve the certification requirements from the Justice Institute to train and certify for Live Fire I and II.
The Otter Point Fire Fighters Association would like to acknowledge the financial assistance of the Province of British Columbia for the funding that this project has received through gaming grants.
Our neighbours in Sooke have contributed to the project and have been using the training centre for many years for everything from recruit training, to regular maintenance training, and live fire certification.
More than 25 different Fire Departments from lower Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands have used our training facility to upgrade their firefighters in live fire scenarios. Many Justice Institute certification courses in Live Fire I and Live Fire II have been completed at the Otter Point Training Centre. Pender Island and Saltspring Island with the support of other Lower Island Fire Departments have used the facility to put on a Youth Firefighter Training Camp.
The Otter Point firefighters also find time to be active and serve in the community. We host a water ball game at the Sooke flats during Canada Day celebrations; a Halloween bonfire with hotdogs, hot chocolate, candy, and a fireworks display; Christmas Candy Cane Run; and Santa parade; we host the annual polar bear swim at Whiffin Spit beach on New Year’s day each year.
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