After more than three decades of service, Dave Cockle is stepping down.
Only the ninth fire chief in the District of Oak Bay since 1938, Dave Cockle steps down Jan. 31 and will be replaced by current Deputy Fire Chief Darren Hughes. An Oak Bay firefighter for more than three decades, Cockle said his time serving his community’s “no call too small” mandate has been a joy.
“The people are incredible here in Oak Bay. We are really a community-based service … and so proud from day one to be able to help our residents with that whether they have an issue with,” Cockle said. “An electrical problem or a water leak whatever it is, we are here to support that and not many [fire] departments can say that.”
Promoted to lieutenant in 1997, to assistant chief in 2003, Cockle took over as deputy fire chief in 2007 before eventually taking over his current position in 2013. He said the biggest change since being recruited more than three decades ago has been technology and communication, especially with the introduction of cell phones. But at the end of the day, he said the job was always about helping people.
“It started in 1938, because that’s what firefighters do and did, you are kind of the go-to for the community and we have managed to maintain that all the way through to where we are today,” Cockle said. “That’s what our residents want, certainly by our satisfaction survey that we had 99 per cent satisfaction.”
Under his leadership, a health and wellness program aimed at improving the mental and physical well-being of the Oak Bay fire hall’s staff and personnel was introduced. He is also a past president of the Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay, a current chair of the Oak Bay Kiwanis Pavilion Dementia Care Centre, vice-chair of the Rose Manor Society and one of the original founders of ShakeOut BC.
Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch said it will be difficult to watch him go.
“Dave Cockle has done amazing work in his years as fire chief, and I’m sad to see him retire,”Murdoch said. “Dave has worked tirelessly to improve the Oak Bay Fire Department, to build regional preparation and co-operation and to contribute to a better society through his volunteer work.”
Hughes said Cockle’s legacy stretches well beyond his good work in Greater Victoria.
“[He was] instrumental in [the ShakeOut BC] program and helped get the entire province prepared,” Hughes said. “I would say that his reach within this community and beyond has been collaborative and his influence is appreciated and stretched well beyond Oak Bay’s borders.”
Hughes has met every single fire chief in his department’s history with the exception of the very first, but the fire hall’s tradition sees him receiving the fire helmet of Oak Bay’s first fire chief from Cockle when he takes over.
“There some mixed emotions, very excited to get the helmet for myself and certainly a bittersweet moment to watch my mentor and current Fire Chief Cockle leave our services,” Hughes said. “[I have] got really big shoes to fill and I will work extremely hard for the community to fill those shoes.”
Hughes will become the 10th fire chief in the District of Oak Bay since the department was formed in 1938.
“It has been a pleasure to have been able to serve [Oak Bay] up to this point back to 1992 when Chief Cockle and I were running around the district in an ambulance,” Hughes said. “It’s has been an unbelievable experience and anyone who knows me has heard me say the words that I am as excited and happy to work for the community of Oak Bay as the first day that I started.”