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Victoria Fire Department goes green with new FireBolts

The Victoria Fire Department is embracing zero-emissions vehicles with the addition of five 2020 Chevrolet Bolt battery electric vehicles (BEV) to its fleet.
Captain Inspector Megan Sabell shows off one of the new electric vehicles at Station House No. 2 on Michigan Street. The vehicles have been dubbed FireBolts. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

The Victoria Fire Department is embracing zero-emissions vehicles with the addition of five 2020 Chevrolet Bolt battery electric vehicles (BEV) to its fleet.

The bright yellow and white vehicles, which will be used by the department’s fire-prevention division, have already been dubbed the FireBolts. The new vehicles replace three gas-powered pickup trucks and two mid-size SUVs.

“It is encouraging to witness the transition of the fire department fleet to electric technologies, implementing climate-friendly alternatives where we are able to,” said Fire Chief Paul Bruce. “Our mechanical division has been investigating these developing technologies and recommending their use as we progress towards decreasing our carbon footprint.”

The vehicles will be used to transport members of the department to fire safety inspections and community safety education sessions.

With the addition of the five FireBolts, the City of Victoria now has a fleet of 16 electric vehicles and five e-bikes.

The Oak Bay Fire Department is poised to be the next to transition, with funds already allocated to replace its 2008 Toyota Camry hybrid with a new BEV pickup truck.

“The transition is absolutely on the radar. We have held out so far because we will be calling on our vehicle to serve dual purposes,” said Fire Chief Darren Hughes. “We need a vehicle that can tow as well as one with exterior storage — where it can carry bulky items such as a fire hose if necessary.”

He expects the two service vehicles in the fleet will be replaced as soon as the next two years, coinciding with the introduction of a new generation of BEV trucks by various manufacturers.

The Saanich Fire Department leads in the region in electrification, having converted its two internal combustion-engine light-duty vehicles to electric vehicles in 2017. The District of Saanich completed conversion of its entire passenger car fleet to electricity in 2020.

“By taking advantage of the various government grants (to convert from gas to electricity) available at that time, our electric vehicles were no more expensive than a gas equivalent,” said Dan Wood, deputy fire chief.

With two more vehicles in the fleet up for replacement this year, the department is exploring the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to replace its medium-duty trucks.

The Saanich Police Department was the first in Canada to incorporate a BEV in its fleet. It plans to add three more electric vehicles this year.

The City of Victoria’s target is to convert 80 per cent of its fossil fuel-powered vehicles to electric vehicles and other renewable-fuel transportation alternatives by 2040.

“Victoria is transitioning our city fleet to electric and these new additions to the fire department are another great step in this work,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “Greater Victoria has the highest percentage of EV sales in Canada and the city is excited to lead by example by transitioning our own fleet.”

In the coming weeks, City of Victoria staff will be going before council to seek approval to replace one of the city’s fire engines, with one option to purchase a fully electric replacement.

If approved, it will likely be the second such vehicle in Canada, following the Vancouver Fire Department, which is expecting to take delivery of its electric fire truck in late 2023.

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