Athlone Travel owner Elizabeth Smith

Community opens hearts and wallets for Oak Bay firefighters

New equipment funded by donations

A fundraiser spearheaded by Athlone Travel raised $13,750 for the Oak Bay fire department.

The fundraiser was held in December and money raised will go toward purchasing non-essential equipment, such as a new Jaws of Life, thermal imaging camera and a gas monitor, said fire chief Dave Cockle.

“These are tools we definitely need and needed to upgrade from our existing ones,” Cockle said, explaining some current equipment is more than 20 years old and there isn’t enough money in the budget to replace it. “The community has really stepped in to help.”

Athlone Travel agent Peter Wheaton came up with the idea to fundraise for the firefighters after a longtime client purchased a defibrillator for the department after her husband died from a heart attack.

“Her husband had a heart condition and he had two heart attacks,” Wheaton said. “She was amazed by the quick response of the fire department when he had his first heart attack, as once she put the phone down, they were there. The second time unfortunately, they were not able to resuscitate him.”

The travel agency often fundraises for various causes, so Wheaton approached owner Elizabeth Smith about supporting the fire department. Smith then contacted Cockle and he sent her a wish list of items  such as pelican lights and an infrared camera, that were in need of replacement.

Smith publicized the fundraising effort in her travel agency’s newsletter, in the local media and the company store window with a firefighter themed display. She was amazed by the response.

“One fellow came in and gave us $50 and he doesn’t live in B.C.,” Smith said. “He used to be a firefighter before and he saw the community coming together to raise funds and he said he wanted to donate.”

Smith said there was another person who canvassed his neighbourhood and collected $6,000. Due to the overwhelming response, the travel agency decided to continue fundraising for the fire department.

“We hope to donate a similar (amount) again,” Smith said.

Cockle added that fire equipment is expensive. A new gas monitor costs $3,000 and flashlights that are spark and explosion proof costs $200 each.

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