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Making the case to replace Firehall #1

Fire Chief John Iverson speaks with media about the need to replace Firehall #1. Bill Phillips photo
Fire Chief John Iverson speaks with media about the need to replace Firehall #1. Bill Phillips photo

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

Prince George’s largest fire truck, the one with the longest ladder, doesn’t live downtown where all the tall buildings are.

It is stationed in Firehall #2 because it doesn’t fit in Firehall #1 downtown. It’s just one of the many reasons why the city is seeking approval from the electorate to borrow up to $15 million to replace Firehall #1.

“This is a modern, platform aerial device,” said Fire Chief John Iverson of the big ladder truck. “If I had my choice, this truck would be stationed Firehall #1 downtown where most of our high rise occupancies are.”

Inside Firehall #1, quarters are cramped for the firefighters in the 60-year-old building.

“The general condition of this building … it’s tired,” said Iverson. “It’s been around for a while and we need a change.”

From small rooms to an exercise room that doubles as a fire training room, every nook and cranny is crammed with some sort of equipment. When the city started taking in evacuees from the Cariboo wildfires this summer, the issue of the crowed firehall really became evident. Standard protocol in such situations is to establish an emergency operations centre at a firehall, as it has emergency personnel and dispatch capabilities.

The emergency operations centre at the firehall quickly became overcrowded and unworkable and the centre was moved to the Civic Centre.

In addition, the firehall is not built to modern building standards in that firehalls nowadays are constructed to, hopefully, withstand natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Dispatch area at Firehall #1. Bill Phillips photo
Dispatch area at Firehall #1. Bill Phillips photo

“Those things were never considered when these building were constructed,” he said. “Any modern fire station is going to built to a post-disaster standard based on what the requirements of the region are.”

He said the cost to upgrading the current building to post-disaster standard would be very expensive, he said, and is just not feasible.

While a new building will make the firefighters more comfortable in better working surroundings, one of the most compelling reasons to move the firehall to the proposed new location on Massey Drive is response time.

Eight minutes is the magic number for optimum response times. If fire crews can get to fire within eight minutes, they have much better chance of fighting it effectively.

“The proposed new location provides an eight-minute response coverage area that’s 50 per cent larger than the one we have right now,” he said. “That’s really important. We want to get our crews to the scene within eight minutes because that gives us the best chance to confine a fire to the room of origin … That’s one of the key things when you build a fire station is you build it where it’s going to provide the best service.”

When asked what he’ll miss about Firehall #1 should the referendum be successful, Iverson said “I won’t miss this building … it’s at the end of its useful life.”

The city hosting several public sessions on replacing the firehall, and Four Seasons Pool, leading up to the October 28 referendum.

An open house will be held at the current and proposed sites of Fire Hall #1 on Saturday, September 16 from 9 a.m. to noon (current site at Seventh and Dominion) and at the proposed site on Massey Drive (next to the Northern BC YMCA) near the intersection with Carney Street from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. City officials will be stationed at a white tent on-site.

Four Seasons Leisure Pool – An open house will be held at the current site of the Four Seasons Leisure Pool at 775 Dominion Street on Wednesday, October 18 from 4:30-8 p.m.

Two digital town halls will be held in council chambers at 6 p.m. on September 19 (Fire Hall #1) and September 20 (Four Seasons Leisure Pool). Media have been invited to participate as a panel to ask questions posed to them by their respective audiences directly to the mayor and city officials. The video from the events, which will be held in council chambers at City Hall, will be streamed live on the city’s website (www.princegeorge.ca) and on its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/cityofpg). Residents can also attend in person.

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