Gabriola firefighters move into new home

NANAIMO – Construction nearly complete on new Gabriola main fire station.

Gabriola Fire Rescue is getting ready to invite the public into its new home.

Construction on the community’s new main firehall is nearly complete and the island’s 30 volunteer firefighters are prepping for a grand opening and open house.

The building, under construction since January, is being built on the same property at 760 North Rd. as the old 1969 firehall it is replacing.

“The old hall we’ve been in for 40 years and it flunked in any seismic study we ever got on it,” said Albert Reed, building committee chairman.

The new hall is seismically sound and can accommodate more and larger firefighting equipment.

Both are needed to meet unique and growing challenges of firefighting on Gabriola. Unlike fire departments on Vancouver Island that can call for mutual aid from emergency service in nearby  communities, when a major fire or other disaster happens on on the island the fire department must handle it alone with the equipment and personnel available. Nor does Gabriola have a water and hydrant system, so all water used to battle blazes must be trucked to the scene with water tenders.

“We have the equivalent insurance ratings as a city with fire hydrants, but we do that with a tanker shuttle service,” Reed said. “That takes a fair bit of equipment because we’re a stand-alone fire department.”

The special demands of firefighting on Gabriola mean the island has continually been upgrading its fire fighting equipment.

The new station, designed by Johnston Davidson Architecture of Vancouver, has been built to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver standard and is similar in design to Nanaimo Fire Rescue Station No.4 in Chase River.

There is space for eight vehicles, firefighter training, public education programs storage and maintenance.

“More vehicle bay space, better and cleaner training facilities and it’s a green building so it will cost less to operate – a whole raft of things that go with modern day technology,” said Reed, who has a master’s degree in fire protection engineering.

Cost of construction is $3.8 million.

Gabriola Fire Rescue is moving as much equipment as possible into the new station even before it is totally finished.

“We’ll start as soon as we can to respond to emergencies from the new building because if there’s an earthquake, the old building we can’t get the vehicles out, the doors will collapse,” Reed said. “This new building will be a good place to respond from so we’ll have turnout gear and the trucks there as the rest of the building gets its final completion.”

The grand opening and open house for the new firehall happens Oct. 6, 1-4 p.m.