Qualicum Beach’s fire hall is no longer state-of-the-art, barely holds its vehicles and has precious little room for volunteer firefighters to change into their gear during an emergency call.
To solve these issues and more, the fire department and the Town of Qualicum Beach are beginning the process of replacing the hall. Early estimates place the cost of doing so at between $4 and $5 million — but the town has yet to get into the fine details and planning that would pin down a budget for the project. They have time, as formal plans are only starting and the fire station replacement won’t be added to the budget until after the town’s financial plan review in September and October.
Plans right now are to move the fire hall from its downtown location on Harlech Road, to land next to the Berwick Road reservoir, off of Rupert Road and near the roundabout, southwest of town. Fire Chief Darryl Kohse says the new structure could possibly incorporate the existing concrete reservoir into its design — but he noted that’s only speculation at this time.
The proposed Berwick location, he said, offers the fire department full access to their coverage area in about five minutes (excepting areas to the extreme west and east) and allows firefighters better access to the hall itself. Kohse said when the town hosts special events, the current hall’s downtown location means getting to it — and getting fire trucks out to a call — can be a challenge.
Ranked number six in the region for 911 call-outs, Kohse said the fire department is a busy one. He added he would like to have a new station with more training room, an alternate emergency operations centre, a building with room to grow and with enough room for his firefighters.
“It’s quite confined with the existing vehicles we have,” he said of the old hall. “We really don’t have the training space.”
More space, he added, means that he can recruit more volunteer members. Currently, he said there’s space for only 30 to 32 members, and the department needs more.
He’s estimating a new hall would be in the range of 12,000 to 13,000 square feet. Estimating construction costs at $350 per square foot, that gave him the $4 to $5 million estimate.
Kohse added he toured new halls in the region — Meadowwood (Dashwood), Parksville and Nanoose Bay — noting the costs of those facilities.
Mayor Teunis Westbroek said previous councils have talked about this plan and a financial plan was passed four years ago that included money for the hall replacement. Not all of the money, he noted, adding the town will still have to raise most of it.
“It comes down to finances,” he said, “and there are a lot of other interests after (the town’s money).”
He was supportive of Kohse’s presentation Monday night, however, saying the Chief’s report justifies the need to replace the current station, which was built in 1974 and expanded many times.
Town council unanimously passed a motion to get that process under way.