Hammond Bay fire hall debated

NANAIMO – A report is expected this fall looking at the difference a new hall and staffing could have made to recent fires.

The need for a Hammond Bay fire hall hasn’t disappeared, according to Nanaimo Professional Firefighters Local 905 president Mike Rispin, who wants to see it built before lives are lost.

Nanaimo city council will debate construction and staffing of a $2.4-million Hammond Bay fire hall this year as it heads into 2016 budget discussions.

It’s also called for a staff report, expected this fall, on how a new fire hall and different staffing scenarios could have affected recent fires in the area. A home on Jester’s Way was heavily damaged and others threatened by blaze in early August.

A sixth fire hall for the city, proposed for Hammond Bay and Nottingham Drive, has been on the wish list for a decade after being recommended as a priority in the city’s Standard of Response Coverage Study. It’s now penciled into the 2016 budget but has seen three previous delays, including for a core review.

The city’s standard to respond to emergency calls is six minutes, allowing it to fight fires, limit property damage and increase the chances of survival for cardiac arrests. Trucks, however, were only able to meet that response time for 31.83 per cent of 340 incidents that happened in Hammond Bay between 2011-13.

“We’ve had three fairly large fires in that area with greater damage than usual because of our response times. Now it’s just going to happen one of these days it’s going to take a life,” Rispin said.

Mayor Bill McKay doesn’t believe the city should proceed with a new station until council determines a location and how it’s going to be manned. He’s also interested in seeing a new fire plan that addresses shortcomings throughout the community, not just Hammond Bay.

Coun. Diane Brennan, who made the motion for a report on recent fires and potential staffing models, wants evidence to support a decision on station construction.

“This will help us make a decision based on public safety as well as budget,” she said.