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Entire qathet Regional District area benefits from new fire hall, training facility

“Every firefighter has to go through live fire training. It’s going to be a work in progress but we will get to a place where we can fully do that. It’s pretty exciting.” ~ qRD manager of emergency services Ryan Thoms

Northside Volunteer Fire Department’s new Lund fire hall will not only service the community at the north end of the qathet region, but will also be a valuable installation for other fire departments in the area.

qathet Regional District (qRD) manager of emergency services Ryan Thoms said there are about 30 volunteers who serve the northside department, and the Lund fire hall is the second fire hall for northside, with the number one fire hall located near Craig Road. Thoms said the two fire halls are part of the same service area, which stretches up to Okeover Inlet and all the way down to the Wilde Road area north of Tla’amin Nation.

“With it being a long, skinny service area, we need two fire halls,” said Thoms. “Lund is the smaller of the two, with two trucks here, and four trucks kept at the main fire hall, but it is part of one system.”

Thoms said the new fire hall, which is situated on Highway 101 just south of Lund, replaces an old fire hall on Larson Road that dates back to the mid-70s. The old fire hall, which was inadequate for the northside fire department, has been transferred to the Lund recreation service.

“The Larson Road fire hall was way too small and had some building issues for a building that age,” said Thoms. “We were really lucky that a group of local residents who own the property around the new fire hall offered to donate a portion of it.

“It was subdivided, so some residents in Lund donated two and a half acres for this new fire hall. It has allowed us to build here in a great location. It’s a wonderful legacy from community members for the community.”

Thoms said operations were moved from Larson Road to the new facility late last year.

In the main fire hall area, there is room for three trucks. Two are currently in place. The third bay is currently taken up with an old hybrid vehicle so firefighters can train around incidents with electric vehicles.

Eventually, the hope is that a rescue truck can be located in the third bay, which is a small truck often used for medical response. Taking a large fire truck up a narrow driveway in the middle of the night can damage the big trucks.

Huge improvement

Northside Volunteer Fire Department fire chief Jim Brown said in the Larson Road facility, fire trucks would not properly fit into the fire hall. Brown said it was a real compromise to operate out of the former facility.

“This is a huge improvement,” added Brown.

He said the new fire hall is well located to serve its coverage area.

In addition to the service bays, it has a large training room. The new hall has a live fire training area, so the training room can be used for teaching the basics before firefighters undertake live fire exercises. It can also be used for regular training that the firefighters face on a weekly basis.

“It’s a huge improvement; the old fire hall had a little room,” said Brown. “Our new space is more than adequate for our requirements. We have plans for training and hopefully all fire departments will come out here and use our facility for training.”

Thoms said there had recently been a meeting with all the fire chiefs: from Tla’amin, City of Powell River, Savary Island, Texada Island and Malaspina Volunteer Fire Department.

“We showed them the live fire training grounds because it is the only one in the region,” said Thoms. “Before this facility, all the fire departments had to travel over to Comox or the lower coast. Every firefighter has to go through live fire training. It’s going to be a work in progress but we will get to a place where we can fully do that. It’s pretty exciting.

“The hope is there can be easier access and it will hopefully benefit everyone’s budget because the fire departments won’t have to pay for travel and meals and hotels. It’s also respecting volunteer firefighters’ time because they won’t have to be away from home.”

Years in the making

Thoms said a tremendous amount of work had been done by Brown to ensure the new fire hall fit the operational needs of the department.

“It’s a really nice, modern facility,” added Thoms.

Thoms said the building has been many years in the making. The facility is largely funded by the taxpayers in the northside fire protection area, he added, but there was also funding from the province to build the accessible washroom in the facility. Thoms said for fire departments, health and safety is paramount, so having a proper washroom facility and shower that was not part of the old Lund fire hall is a great addition.

Brown said the new building is working very well for his department.

There has also been funding that has come through for the live fire training facility. Thoms said a one-time grant through Union of British Columbia Municipalities was received to pay for some of the facility.

“Any time you can find funding from senior levels of government or other sources, we were quite fortunate for help toward the fire training centre,” added Thoms.

Additionally, some of the firefighters started an auxiliary, and there has been extensive fundraising endeavours, such as collection of pop cans. A total of $45,000 went from the auxiliary to the live fire training centre.

“The community is really behind our department,” said Brown.