(THE NEWS/files) The Pitt Meadows fire hall will be rebuilt in its current location, council decided this week.

Current location best for fire hall

Pitt Meadows fire hall will be rebuilt on multiple levels

The site for a new Pitt Meadows fire hall will be the old site, where it has been since 1983.

The property at 19240 – 122A Avenue is ideally situated in the centre of the city, allowing for fast response by on-call firefighters.

“They get here, get on a truck, and they’re gone,” said fire chief Mike Larsson.

The central location was lauded by consultant Dugal Smith in a 2016 report, finding the average overall response time for rural and urban areas is eight minutes, which he said is excellent for a volunteer/paid on-call department covering such a large community.

The average response time in the rural area is just over 10 minutes and in the city’s core area is better at 7:00.30.

While the new hall will be in the same location, Larsson told council a new hall is needed.

“We’ve outgrown our current site, our current hall, many years ago. We’re stretching at the walls,” he said.

Firefighters dress into their turnout gear next to moving vehicles, which he said is a safety issue. They have no area to wash their gear, no designated area to dry the gear, and there are other size-related problems. So they need a new hall, he added.

“We believe the size of the site is sufficient, that when properly designed this building can address our concerns both size wise and safety wise.

“And we also believe we can incorporate the city’s emergency operations centre into this building, as well.”

The last council determined a new, larger site would be needed, and started to look for one in November 2017. A consultant’s report said the new fire hall should be 21,000 square feet, where the existing hall is 6,600. The current hall is also not up to seismic standards, having last been upgraded in 1999.

Apparatus bays have limited physical space, “creating safety and operational hazards for the crews,” said consultant Kimberly Johnston.

And the department has more and larger equipment and needs more space to fulfill upgraded industry standards. The current lot is 0.63 acres, and has 25 parking spaces for a full muster of 40 firefighters. She noted if a new hall was built at the site, and would cover the entire developable area. She concluded the city needs a 1.5 acre site.

However, the city has simply not found a better location, said Mayor Bill Dingwall.

“The past council and the current council have spent a lot of time exploring sites and options,” he added.

After exploring numerous sites, including nearby Hoffman Park, both Larsson and assistant chief Brad Perrie concluded the existing site is best.

The building will need to be designed on multi-levels, up to three storeys, and with potential underground parking, he said.

Samantha Maki, director of engineering and operations, told council the next steps will be to assemble a request for proposals to design the new hall.

The city will not have to purchase any land, and has a reserve of approximately $10 million to replace the fire hall, so Dingwall predicted the impact on tax bills should be comparatively small.

The problem with building on the same site is whether construction can happen there, while the firefighters continue to operate from the hall. Alternatively, the fire hall may have to be temporarily relocated during some construction.

“There are logistical challenges that will come with this,” said Larsson.

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