Fire Hall No. 4 back on Maple Ridge council agenda

‘Would improve fire department response times in suburbs'

Fire Hall No. 1 opened in 2010.

Fire Hall No. 1 opened in 2010.

Maple Ridge’s long-planned Fire Hall No. 4 is now back before council, after gathering dust since the mid-1990s.

If council agrees at a later meeting, an architect will be hired to design the building, along with training grounds and a neighbourhood park that would also fit on to the property.

Fire Hall No. 4 has been in the city’s plans for years, but has been delayed “a number of times due to other priorities,” said a staff report at Monday’s committee meeting.

However, a payment strategy has been created, allowing the borrowing of $6 million for the cost of the project, once a decision has been made, although the building may cost more than that.

Maple Ridge will borrow the $6 million from the Municipal Finance Authority, while the payments would come out of the fire department capital acquisition reserve.

According to a staff report, a fire hall in the eastern suburbs would make it quicker for paid-on-call firefighters to get to the hall. Maple Ridge Fire Department is a blend of full-time and paid-on-call firefighters.

“Stated simply, the farther a paid-on-call firefighter resides from their assigned fire hall, the longer it takes for fire trucks to respond, resulting in potential increased losses.”

However, the report gives no statistics to support that.

Having a fire hall in the area could also reduce insurance costs for businesses, and also serve as a training facility. Until now, firefighters trained at the Justice Institute of B.C. on 256th Street, in exchange for the fire department giving its old fire trucks to the institute. But that partnership is ending and the Justice Institute may start billing the fire department  $175,000 a year for training.

The training facility at the new fire hall would use propane-fired props to create “fires” to provide realistic training.

About a quarter of the 10-acre site would be used for a neighbourhood park, while the new fire hall would also provide room for some of the city’s computer servers.

“Investing in one construction project that serves the needs of several departments will net fiscal synergies …” said the report.

Council looked at the staff proposal at its committee meeting Monday. Approval is being sought to hire an architect to design the building and figure out its total cost and also to develop a community consultation program.

A news release this week from the city announced that community consultation for design of the park would begin once council approved hiring an architect to design the building.

“The co-location with Fire Hall No. 4 is a great opportunity to integrate some fun features that reflect the history and role of our fire department. We look forward to working with the Albion neighbourhood on this project,” said Valoree Richmond, manager of park planning.

During the previous council, Coun. Corisa Bell opposed the project because of its cost.