Firefighter Pete Vanbuskirk slips down the length of a fire pole and disappears through a hole in the floor.
He lands on a soft mat, just steps away from where a fire truck is parked on the ground floor of the Esquimalt fire hall.
Meanwhile, firefighter Andrew Zado’s heavy footfalls can be heard as he pounds down two flights of stairs toward the same destination.
“Andrew is not even out the door (to the staircase) and Pete’s already waiting for him (downstairs),” Assistant Fire Chief George McGregor says.
Vanbuskirk has easily won the race, demonstrating the precious seconds the smoke eaters are saving thanks to the $1,100 installation of a new fire pole at Esquimalt’s Public Safety building about a month ago.
For firefighters, every second counts when they are called to fires, medical emergencies, automobile accidents and other potentially life-and-death situations.
“Our reaction times are important to us to the point where we keep a stopwatch in the truck,” says McGregor. “So this helps us get the boys out.”
The brass pole is also safer to use than the stairs, he says, noting the risk that comes when a group of people rush down the stairs.
The fire pole marks Esquimalt Fire Rescue’s return to tradition.
The team used a pole until 2002, when it was removed prior to the separation of the Esquimalt police and fire department in 2003. The small upstairs room where firefighters got onto the pole was reconfigured into office and storage space, and the hole in the floor was sealed.
“It’s common for fire halls where the living quarters are upstairs to have a fire pole,” says Esquimalt Fire Chief Dave Ward. The former Saanich fire chief says the Saanich Fire Department’s main hall on Vernon Avenue has two poles.
Esquimalt’s fire pole is also sure to delight preschool and elementary school children when they tour the hall.
“The youngsters that come to the fire hall for tours expect a fire pole,” Ward says. “What’s a fire hall without a fire pole?”