The next step in building a new $10 million fire hall in Pitt Meadows is to find a new site for it.
Council made two key decisions on Tuesday after hearing a report by a consultant who evaluated the existing facility.
Councillors decided Pitt Meadows will be served by only one hall, and also that it will find a site for a new one, rather than try relocate firefighters and their trucks and equipment while constructing on the existing site.
The new hall is a five-year project.
Kimberly Johnston, the consultant, did a spatial assessment of the existing fire hall and said it is about one-third of the size that the city needs.
A new fire hall should be built at 21,000 square feet, for a 50-year lifespan.
The existing fire hall is 6,600 square feet.
“You can see the gap … between where you are today and where you need to be,” said Johnston.
Apparatus bays have limited physical space, “creating safety and operational hazards for the crews,” she said.
She said the department has more and larger equipment, and needs more space to fulfill upgraded industry standards.
For example, the department should have an area where turnout gear is stored, where firefighters can quickly change and then get into their trucks.
Right now, the gear is stored in the truck bays, where vehicle exhaust is considered a toxin and a carcinogen.
Modern standards would not allow that, and she said there should be proper facilities to wash and dry gear.
“The idea around decontamination has changed,” she said.
The building does not meet post-disaster standards, and is not seismically complaint with the B.C. Building Code. It was built in 1983, and had seismic upgrade to the apparatus bays in 1999.
Those seismic upgrades are now considered out of date.
Johnston said the concrete brick building is “very susceptible to a seismic event.”
The site itself is too small, she said, noting it is 0.63 acres in size, and has 25 parking spaces for a full muster of 40 firefighters. There is no drive-through access into bays, limited training area, and the hall is surrounded by residential neighbours on two sides.
If a new hall is built there, she said the building would cover the entire developable area.
She recommended the city needs a 1.5 acre site, but the ideal one would be 1.9 acres, would offer 45 parking spaces to handle crew, and a full-sized apron for trucks to pull out of the bays completely and still be on the property.
She showed council images of the Central Saanich and Qualicum Beach fire halls which were approximately the same size recommended for Pitt Meadows, and were built for $300 per square foot, or about $6 million.
Pitt Meadows has budgeted $10 million for the new fire hall, to acquire land, build and equip the facility, said Fire Chief Don Jolley.
He said council was receptive to the proposal.
“We know this building has some significant shortfalls we’re managing through,” said Jolley. “It was never a Cadillac – it was built to hold a small volunteer fire department.”
He likes the plan for a single fire hall, as long as Canadian Pacific Railway follows through on its announced plans to put an underpass at the Harris Road railway crossing, so fire trucks do not get blocked by trains.
“One fire hall, with all the right equipment in one place, is the right plan,” he said.
Coun. Bruce Bell said the city should look at empty land beside Spirit Square. It has also been recently pitched as a location for a new pool.
He said airport land should also be considered.
Coun. Tracy Miyashita said firefighters should be part of the decision-making process.
“I would really like to hear what the firefighters have to say about this,” she said. “They live and breathe this every day.”
Coun. Bill Dingwall said the need is obvious.
“We’re about a third of the size of what we should be, so hats off to the fire department operating in that confined space,” said Dingwall. “I’ve been in the fire hall many, many times and clearly we’re in need of a new one.”
Jolley would like to see council with a new location by this summer, and those discussions will be held in private meetings. Design work is scheduled to begin in 2018, and construction in 2020 and 2021.