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Sooke firefighter honoured for 30 years of continuous service

Rick McLeod began his career in 1992
Rick McLeod

Apparently, 30 years of service to the community simply isn’t enough for Rick McLeod.

The former Sooke Fire Rescue deputy fire chief, who retired in 2016, continues to serve actively through his work as lead on the department’s Fire Incident Support Team and his volunteer efforts with Sooke Emergency Support Services.

“I still want to be involved with the community and the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with,” McLeod said when asked what keeps him so connected to Sooke Fire Rescue.

McLeod began his career as a volunteer firefighter in 1992, fulfilling a fascination with firefighting dates back to his childhood.

“I was driving by and saw a sign outside the Sooke fire hall that said they were looking for volunteers,” McLeod recalled. “I talked it over with my wife, and she gave her blessing. Valerie has always been my strongest supporter.”

McLeod said the biggest changes he’s seen over the years are the huge improvements in apparatus and equipment.

“There have also been significant improvements in firefighting techniques,” he noted. “The technology is incredible now.”

McLeod listed being part of the auto extraction team as one of the highlights of his career.

“We represented the department and the district at a number of competitions provincewide, and went to international competitions in Gullane, Scotland and Ottawa. It was an incredible, unforgettable experience to compete against firefighters from other countries and learn new techniques.”

Getting to serve with a fire crew from Sooke at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler was another highlight as well.

McLeod, who was recognized at the annual Sooke Fire Rescue banquet in October for this 30 years of active service, said his tenure pales compared to Bill Stephenson, who was fire chief when McLeod first joined the department.

“The hall is named after Bill for his 65 years of service. He was an amazing guy to work with, always had a twinkle in his eye and a story to tell. If you needed something, Bill knew where to find it, or he would find someone who knew where to get it. It was a real loss to the department and community when he passed away. He was a true cornerstone and ambassador.”

Never one to seek the spotlight in any way, shape or form, McLeod was quick to point out that fire departments and the provincial and federal governments have a long tradition of acknowledging firefighters for their length of service. He did admit he’s looking forward to receiving the statue that comes with the crossing the 30-year threshold, though.

“It’s a really nice realistic sculpture of a firefighter holding a hose,” he explained.

“I feel privileged to still be able to be part of a department with such dedicated, well-trained, motivated and well-equipped people. I see them as family and have nothing but respect for the work they do and as individuals. I’d match my memories of the level of competence at our department with any department. These people are second to none, which gives me the feeling that the citizens of Sooke are in good hands.”

Kelvin Phair, a long-time member of the Sooke and East Highlands volunteer fire departments, said everyone at Sooke Fire Rescue likes McLeod.

“He’s one of my closest friends, a really good guy and a great firefighter,” Phair said.

“He’s been through a lot in his career, and is absolutely an asset to the department and the community. Everyone at the department likes Rick. He’s a real go-to guy, always willing to help anyone.”

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About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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