The City of Langford has been a hub of nearly constant change over the 30 years since its incorporation, but one thing has remained constant: Langford Fire Rescue has been there to keep the community safe.
But that’s not to say the department hasn’t changed along with its city. In fact, it has probably changed more than the city itself, no doubt helped by the fact it is actually more than 40 years older, dating back to the Second World War-era civil defence air raid protection groups formed in 1940.
“In 1947 the department was officially formed using the format of the air raid protection groups, but it actually became the Langford Volunteer Fire Department,” said Fire Chief Chris Aubrey. “The original fire hall was on Carlow Road over by Spencer Middle School, but we weren’t in that hall for very long before we moved to the Goldstream Avenue fire hall over where Bin 4 Burger Lounge is now.”
The first major change for the department’s operations came in 1952 when it began providing ambulance services to the community, long before BC Emergency Health Services started operating ambulances – a service the department would continue to provide until 1983. Station moves and additions would continue, and in 1980 the department established its own 24/7 dispatch centre, which at its peak handled fire dispatch for most of the West Shore before closing in 2021.
Throughout most of its history, the department has been run almost entirely by volunteers, and volunteers continue to play a major role in the department today. The number of paid career staff has slowly been increasing, Aubrey said, allowing stations to be crewed 24/7.
“From 2000 to now, we have gone from two or three career staff to now we are at about 20, but we are still predominately volunteer based with the capacity for 60 volunteer firefighters.”
But the biggest changes the department has faced have been with the calls for service they respond to. Aubrey said for much of the department’s early years, the majority of calls were either fires or car accidents. As time went on, however, they started responding to a much wider variety of calls – enough to justify a name change to Langford Fire Rescue in the early 2000s.
“We are an all-hazards department now. Obviously, we still cover fires and motor vehicle accident calls, but now we also do technical rescue, HAZMAT, water rescue – basically anything someone needs assistance with,” said Aubrey.
The department has also shifted to placing greater emphasis on fire prevention and education, as well as disaster planning and response as part of the city’s Emergency Program.
Aubrey said the guiding principle for the department’s evolution has always been, and always will be, the needs of the community. As the community has grown, so too has the department, and as the community has become denser with larger and taller buildings, the department has upgraded and expanded its equipment and training to ensure it is always a step or two ahead of the types of incidents they may have to respond to.
When the city incorporated in 1992, Aubrey said in a lot of ways it became easier for the department to stay in sync with the needs of the community as it was under the authority of a mayor and council, rather than a regional organization responsible for multiple departments serving multiple communities.
“It makes us more responsive and integrated to the needs of the city. We meet with the building department regularly to understand some of the things that are coming down the line, how that impacts the fire department, and to resolve any issues. That wouldn’t have happened under the old system.”
Over the past five years, Aubrey said the department has also greatly enhanced its relationships with its mutual aid partners on the West Shore, and their respective mayors and councils. Today, it’s rare to see a structure fire in Langford which does not have trucks and crews from Colwood Fire Rescue and View Royal Fire Rescue fighting it alongside Langford crews.