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PHOTOS: 3 new firefighters bring diverse knowledge, perspective to Oak Bay service

Fire department starts 2022 with handful of new faces

A trio of new faces bring a breadth of experiences to the ranks of the Oak Bay Fire Department to start 2022.

Chris Bailey came on in late January, with two others starting 10-day probationary training in early February.

Residents may recognize Bailey as the former station leader at Oak Bay Sea Rescue (RCMSAR station 33), a role he stepped back from to take the full-time firefighter position.

A self-proclaimed mature candidate, Bailey had a wife, a one-year-old and a three-year-old when he started training. He’s now 37 with three kids.

“This career is demanding and requires a lot of candidates to break through,” he said.

Balancing course work, dad time and for the last eight years, a career in craft beer sales, he calls it an unconventional path but a rewarding one.

Bailey realized he’d built a skill set that lent itself to firefighting, drawing from every previous job.

“Firefighting is the name of the job but it’s multifaceted,” he said.

Bailey’s first official shift coincided with Day 4 of training for probationary firefighters Nicole Pound and Ryan Leigh.

The bar is set high, Pound agreed, adding candidates are expected to be driven, positive and show a desire to learn. She hit the emergency services path right after high school in Mississauga, Ont., taking pre-service firefighting education after graduation.

Emergency services is something she wanted to do since childhood, and like many, it comes down to the people.

“I was really involved in community sports and did a lot of things that wouldn’t be possible without my community,” she said.

After working as a tech while finishing her courses, Pound hit the grind to find a job. She earned a firefighter spot in a coveted work experience program at Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna, where she and six men lived in-hall, learning for 11 months.

Pound holds the distinction as the first woman to work as an Oak Bay firefighter.

“Being the only woman is what I’m used to, that’s been my firefighting experience,” she said.

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While the job drew Pound west, Leigh grew up in Victoria.

He saw emergency services as his future since the day his grandfather rolled up to his elementary school and flicked on the lights of the squad car. But after high school, Leigh studied psychology at the University of Victoria then headed for the Justice Institute of B.C. for firefighter courses. In 2018 he moved to Central Saanich where he worked with the volunteer fire department for the last three years.

Leigh confirms there’s a competitive market for firefighters in the region. He actively applied for more than two years, participating in eight or nine recruitment campaigns – five in Surrey – before landing in Oak Bay.

Like the others, Leigh was drawn by the camaraderie and knowing you’re helping people when they’re having a bad day.

“I enjoy supporting the community.”

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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