The first steps taken by the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department in celebrating their 100th anniversary next year, involved white gloves, spit-and-polished boots and the Canadian flag.
Eleven members of the fire station have formed their first-ever honour guard — and they say it could be the only one of its kind among the Island’s volunteer departments. The idea arose from discussions about how the department was going to mark its centennial in August of 2014. Captain Joe Geary says the initial meetings on the 100th anniversary happened back in February and March. In short order, the honour guard was created and with a lot of extra training, the new group was ready to display the colours and represent the town during the Canada Day long weekend.
“The feedback we got from the residents during the Lieutenant-Governor’s visit and after the (Sidney Days) parade was unbelievable,” added Assistant fire Chief Hank Michno, the honour guard commander.
They certainly looked the part for such a fledgling group — despite having to cobble together full dress uniforms for the event. Raising funds to outfit the 11 members is one of their goals, said Michno, adding they will grow when they are able and have dedicated members willing to put in the extra training time.
They need things like hats, white gloves, lanyards, axes and poles as well as full dress uniforms that fit right and are made for marching. Already, the Victoria Airport Authority stepped up and helped provide the honour guard with flags, Michno said. They are looking at a cost of around $11,000, so they know it will take a bit of time to reach that goal. It’s hoped they can order new uniforms by August and have them well in advance of their next planned event, Sidney’s Remembrance Day parade on November 11.
The members are donating their free time to be part of the guard, Geary said. Two new volunteer firefighters with the department are also in the Royal Canadian Navy and have been teaching the others military drill, such as marching in step and carrying the flags.
“We wouldn’t have been ready for July 1 without them,” said Michno, a 23-year veteran of the department and, at age 61, is loving this new role.
“It’s another way of being part of the team,” he explained. “The other members can see all the hard work being put in and that it didn’t go for nothing.”
The honour guard, added Geary, is designed to act as ambassadors for the Town of Sidney at a variety of events and celebrations. It also has a more sombre element in holding the colours at memorial services for called firefighters. Geary said the group will help broaden the fire department’s profile in the community and even act as another recruitment tool — demonstrating the pride among the members and in the community.
Their first appearances in Sidney on the Canada Day long weekend gave them an indication of people’s support for the honour guard and the potential for their success in Sidney and around the region.