The core of Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s operations is getting close to becoming fully operational.
Nanaimo Fire Rescue Station No. 1, under construction since July 2020, is expected to begin full operations by the end of the year, though the department’s administration, fire prevention division, training and other services have been working out of the new $20-million, three-storey, 23,000-square-foot structure since this past July.
The move brought all the divisions that were operating from the old fire station building at the corner of Fitzwilliam and Milton streets and a building at the corner of Fitzwilliam and Prideaux streets back under one roof, said Tim Doyle, Nanaimo Fire Rescue chief.
“It was a phased move-in,” he said. “We moved all our operations staff in first to make sure that they were in and that we had the bugs worked out. We were really focused on getting the ops staff responding, because this was kind of a merger of our two buildings … so this brought all the staff in under one roof.”
Twenty to 30 people now work out of the new structure, depending on operational staffing levels. Firefighters are responding with Engine 1 from a temporary vehicle shelter on the site until debris from the former Fire Station No. 1 – currently being demolished – is cleared and new concrete aprons are poured in front of the new structure’s apparatus bays to connect it to Milton Street. There are still other amenities and finishing work to be completed at the site, but when fully operational, five to six firefighting vehicles will be responding from the new hall.
Amenities such as uniform washing, decontamination, breathing apparatus recharging, and a firefighters’ kitchen, day room and sleeping quarters are already in use.
“The whole first floor’s designated for operations,” Doyle said. “That’s to align with our response standards, to get our personnel on the fire trucks quickly. So we’ve got the living quarters, the kitchen, the officers’ office, the gymnasium, the decon area. It’s all built around the trucks, so when a call goes off, there’s really nothing that a firefighter would be doing outside that area [and] they’re as close to the truck as possible.”
The chief said Nanaimo’s firefighters now respond to as many as 55 calls in a 24-hour period.
NFR’s fire and loss prevention division, planning and certain other operations work on the second storey of the building.
The third floor of the building is also home to Nanaimo’s emergency operations centre. One of the critical functions of the new fire hall is to remain operational and respond to emergencies should a disaster, such as a major earthquake, strike the Nanaimo region and cause wide-spread damage.
“This is [for] post-disaster, so we have a generator, all the things to support communications and power during a large scale emergency,” Doyle said.
Memorabilia from Nanaimo’s early days of firefighting that used to be displayed in an unused bay of the former fire station is now incorporated into display cases and wall displays in the foyers of each floor of the new building. When landscaping is complete, the exterior will feature a First Nations welcoming pole and a piece of structural steel from the World Trade Center towers, the keystone piece of Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s 9/11 memorial.
The new Fire Station No. 1 is designed to be energy efficient as well as operationally efficient.
“It’s not LEED standard, but it is designed with a lot of environmental consideration, so it’s supposed to reduce total energy consumed by as much as 70,000 kilowatt hours and save 27,000 litres of heating oil … annually, so it will reduce CO2 emissions by about 77 tonnes,” Doyle said.
He said the project is now 90 per cent complete, is “trending on budget” and nearly on its projected timeline for completion.