Langford Fire Rescue: 75 years of keeping the community safe

Sometime in the 1970s, what’s now known as Langford Fire Rescue responded to a large blaze at a Shell gas station, seen here. Current Fire Chief Chris Aubrey said the department’s job has evolved constantly over the 75 years it has been serving the community, always keeping up with the needs of the community. (Courtesy of Langford Fire Rescue)Sometime in the 1970s, what’s now known as Langford Fire Rescue responded to a large blaze at a Shell gas station, seen here. Current Fire Chief Chris Aubrey said the department’s job has evolved constantly over the 75 years it has been serving the community, always keeping up with the needs of the community. (Courtesy of Langford Fire Rescue)
The first fire truck purchased for what is now known as Langford Fire Rescue came in 1945 and was a converted 1926 Chevrolet vegetable truck. (Courtesy of Langford Fire Rescue)The first fire truck purchased for what is now known as Langford Fire Rescue came in 1945 and was a converted 1926 Chevrolet vegetable truck. (Courtesy of Langford Fire Rescue)
Over the years, Fire Chief Chris Aubrey said Langford Fire Rescue has responded to a number of major structure fires in the community, including this Large blaze at a Station Avenue construction site sometime in 2006. (Courtesy Langford Fire Rescue)Over the years, Fire Chief Chris Aubrey said Langford Fire Rescue has responded to a number of major structure fires in the community, including this Large blaze at a Station Avenue construction site sometime in 2006. (Courtesy Langford Fire Rescue)
What’s now known as Langford Fire Rescue responded to this large fire at the Highway Sawmills Ltd. sawmill on Island Highway on Aug. 25, 1952. Over the years, the department has evolved to do far more than just fight fires, but that remains one of their core responsibilities. (Courtesy Langford Fire Rescue)What’s now known as Langford Fire Rescue responded to this large fire at the Highway Sawmills Ltd. sawmill on Island Highway on Aug. 25, 1952. Over the years, the department has evolved to do far more than just fight fires, but that remains one of their core responsibilities. (Courtesy Langford Fire Rescue)
Members of Langford Fire Rescue check for hot spots after a grass fire off of Latoria Road in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)Members of Langford Fire Rescue check for hot spots after a grass fire off of Latoria Road in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Firefighters tend to a dog rescued from a home in Langford after an early morning fire in June 2018. (Courtesy of Langford Fire Rescue)Firefighters tend to a dog rescued from a home in Langford after an early morning fire in June 2018. (Courtesy of Langford Fire Rescue)
Members of Langford Fire Rescue’s technical team conduct training exercises on a tower crane on Claude Road in 2017. Fire Chief Chris Aubrey said over the years the department has expanded far beyond simply putting out fires, and is now regularly involved in everything from high-angle and technical rescues, to water rescues and HAZMAT. (Black Press Media file photo)Members of Langford Fire Rescue’s technical team conduct training exercises on a tower crane on Claude Road in 2017. Fire Chief Chris Aubrey said over the years the department has expanded far beyond simply putting out fires, and is now regularly involved in everything from high-angle and technical rescues, to water rescues and HAZMAT. (Black Press Media file photo)

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.

READ MORE: Langford Fire Rescue welcomes the community, celebrates 75 years

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.

READ MORE: As fire deaths trend up, Langford Fire Rescue stressing importance of working smoke detectors

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.

READ MORE: ‘A department to be proud of’: Colwood Fire Rescue marks 75 years serving community


@JSamanski
justin.samanski-langille@goldstreamgazette.com

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City of LangfordLangfordLangford Fire RescueWest Shore