Sooke PocketNews has received word of the passing of W.J. (Billy) Stephenson, a former fire chief with the District of Sooke. He died on Sunday, September 11, 2016.
Stephenson was a celebrated fire fighter who served Sooke for 62 years. According to the District of Sooke’s 2011 Annual Report, Stephenson retired in 2011.
“This year also proved to be the end of an era as Deputy Chief Bill Stephenson retired after 62 years of volunteer service to this community,” reads the 2011 Report from the Fire Chief. “Bill was the longest serving volunteer firefighter in Western Canada and was a great asset to this department. Fortunately he still stops by now and then to assist with filling of fire extinguishers.”
Bill Stephenson was celebrated in an article in the Times Colonist in 2009 as being the “longest-serving active firefighter B.C. has ever had.” That article goes on to note that the province of B.C. had to make its first ever 60-year medal for Stephenson.
Stephenson has been fighting fires in Sooke on the front line since he was 17, first joining the department in 1948. According to a comment from Firefighter26 on Firehall.com’s forum, Stephenson “held the position of chief from 1957-1962 and again from 1976-1977.”
In 2009, Stephenson was presented with the honourary rank of Fire Chief by the then Mayor Janet Evans, and was presented with the “very first, original Sooke Fire Chief’s badge.”
The Sooke fire station on Otter Point Road is named after Stephenson.
“Chief Stephenson was a very special member of our community and he had a significant impact on the citizens of Sooke and specifically on the members of the Fire Department,” Sooke Mayor Maja Tait notes in a release from the District of Sooke. “He will be greatly missed by all who had the pleasure to know him.”