Fire Department Spotlight – Oakhill & District Fire Department – Oakhill, NS
Corey Zinck is the Fire Chief of Oakhill & District Fire Department here in Nova Scotia. He’s been in the fire service since 1996 when he joined the Dayspring Fire Department as a junior firefighter. He then joined the Oakhill & District Fire Department in 2003 as a full member. When he started out, he actually lived right across from the fire hall, so he can remember hearing the trucks go from a very young age. The Junior program is where it all started.
Oakhill Chief for six years now, Corey joined alongside a few friends of his, and once he was in, he was hooked. We want to spotlight Corey and the entire Oakhill & District Fire Department for their tremendous dedication to saving lives and protecting the community they all know, serve, and love.
Throughout the years, what has been your favorite memory with the department?
You always remember the good calls and the good saves. I have a few that stick out in my mind where the outcome was much better than we anticipated. Being able to regularly see the individuals involved in those calls out in the community always brings back memories for me and reminds me why I do what I do.
What is the community in Oakhill like?
We’re located next to the town of Bridgewater, which covers 28 square kilometers or so. It’s a relatively small district with a relatively high population density in comparison with other rural districts. We service around 600 primarily residential addresses with a few light industrial areas like the fabrication shops and a few smaller commercial entities like the local golf course. We get more traffic in the summertime, but otherwise the population is pretty steady.
What is the size of your department?
Right now, we have 25 active members on the fire service side. We also have a strong fund-raising side. We operate out of one station in Whynotts Settlement where we’ve been since 1974. We are 100% volunteer based. Pre-pandemic, we were doing about 120 calls per year. Now we’re on track for around 85 calls this year.
What’s the greatest challenge your department is currently facing?
Recruitment and retention. That’s the big one for everybody now. With a much younger demographic, numerous events, and mailouts, we are able to pull from our population quite steadily, but retention is a serious and ongoing challenge.
Do you find you have a lot of turnover?
We haven’t lately, but six or seven years ago, we changed how we approached recruitment. It used to be a lot easier to get in, and now we take interviews and references to filter out the noncommittals early on in the process. We’ve been pretty successful this way. About 90% of our members have retained in the last year, but we’ll always take more.
Switching over to the truck side of things, how many trucks do you currently have in your fleet?
Right now, we have three large apparatus: a 2012 International single-axle rescue pumper, a 2014 Spartan pumper tanker, a 2020 Spartan Snorkel , and a 2017 Rescue Pick-Up, and a Gator.
What are the main challenges you face with regard to your trucks and equipment?
Our biggest thing is the changing responsibilities in the last ten to fifteen years. I’ve been involved with every truck that exists currently in the fleet. Back in the day, there was no crossover. Now, we need to make each apparatus good at all the specifics while still doing something especially well. With the cost of apparatus now, you need to be smart with it and know you can’t have one piece do everything well. You need to meet your current needs and project what your needs might be ten to fifteen years down the road.
What has been your experience with Metalfab over the years?
Well, pretty spectacular, considering we’ve done four units with you. We’ve been really happy with the service provided from Metalfab, right through from design and specs to fabrication and follow up. To be frank and honest, the follow up is a face-to-face phone call where issues get dealt with right away. Nothing is pushed back.
The ability to do a high level of customization per our department’s requests and Metalfab’s capability to look at us and say, “Hey, are you really sure this is what you want?” has helped us to be cost effective and get what we need for what we are able and willing to pay. We also love the fact that you guys are local, and we can talk to Ryan, Jacques, or Gordon any time. I’ve made the trip to Metalfab almost 20 times in the last five years, and we’ve caught things that have made the six-hour drive there and back well worth it.
Overall, we’ve been extremely pleased. We really appreciate our relationship with Metalfab, being able to pick up the phone whether it’s related to a sale or not. We’re always calling up someone we can trust. It’s huge for us, and we really value that and the no-pressure sales tactics. It’s all about the relationship we look forward to continuing to build in the future.