Nanaimo mayor Leonard Krog takes the controls of a backhoe to turn the turf at a groundbreaking ceremony for the city’s new Fire Station No. 1 on Wednesday. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Ground-breaking ceremony held for Nanaimo’s new Fire Station No. 1

Construction to be complete in fall 2022 for new seismically safe multi-service facility

In about two years, dignitaries, emergency service personnel and special guests will be gathering for the grand opening of Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s new Fire Station No. 1.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held at 666 Fitzwilliam St. Wednesday, July 29, to kick off the start of construction for the building, which will replace the existing facility that has stood on the site since 1967.

The new building will be the primary fire station in the downtown Nanaimo area, but will also be home to the FireComm/dispatch centre, Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s administrative headquarters and the city’s emergency co-ordination centre.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue chief Karen Fry said it was exciting to reach the ground-breaking stage of the project.

“All along the process it was never sure if we were going to see this day and if this day would come to fruition, and yet we knew that we were in an aging facility that had some significant risks,” Fry said. “So today, being here with the support of council and our community, it is huge kudos to the entire team that has been working on it.

Kinetic Construction of Nanaimo is the main contractor for the building, which will add operational safety and efficiency features for firefighters and has also been designed with inclusivity in mind within the fire department.

RELATED: New fire hall will adhere to upgraded comm requirements

“We worked with S2 Architecture and they really listened to a lot of the things that I really wanted in the building … as far as what it physically looks like inside and some of the efficiencies in there, our crews did that and our firefighters and our dispatchers had a lot of input in that,” Fry said.

The building has been designed to operate until about 2080 and to withstand seismic events, remain operational and protect the fire apparatus and emergency personnel working there. The design also recognizes the growing number of women in the fire department by featuring separate rooms.

“I think some of the things we’re taking into consideration for health and wellness is really important and some of those are our separated gear-cleaning areas, as well as separate rooms for [firefighter] dorms, so not having a gang type of room and not having a gang type of showers and washing facilities … separate individual rooms for each firefighter. So, if you had six people on duty in the station and you have a mix of genders and how they identify, they each will have their own space so they can be comfortable.”

RELATED: Cost to build new Nanaimo Fire Station No. 1 jumps $3 million

Firefighters are also more susceptible to certain types of cancers and cardiac ailments because of their exposure to chemical pollution from burned materials, so the new building also adds separate turnout gear cleaning and decontamination areas.

Chad Porter, International Association of Firefighters Local 905 president and Nanaimo Fire Rescue lieutenant, said the new fire station will be safer for firefighters and its design efficiencies will allow for faster response to emergencies.

“The most important design feature for the firefighters is that everything for the firefighters will be on the ground floor, which is adjacent to where we keep our engines and trucks – the rigs that we respond on – so it’s more efficient, it’s safer, less use of fire poles and stairs, which are not as safe … being all on the ground level will be a big help,” Porter said.

The project cost is $20 million. The estimated time for construction is about two years and when completed in the fall of 2022, the facility will be Nanaimo’s fourth Fire Station No. 1 since the city’s fire department, Black Diamond Fire Company, was established in 1878. The city’s first fire station burned down in 1893 and a new station was built on Nicol Street which is now home to the Firehouse Grill.

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