CANMORE – When Canmore reaches full build out of the community, two fire halls are going to be better than one.
That’s the recommendation from a draft fire hall report prepared by consultants Group2 for the Town of Canmore and presented at Tuesday’s (April 16) committee of the whole council meeting.
According to the draft report’s authors, the current fire hall at 10th Street and Railway Avenue is over capacity and vulnerable to traffic congestion when crews respond to emergency calls. But the price tag on the recommended plan to build a new fire hall is $14.8 million and upwards of $22 million for two new halls.
“The [fire hall] has served us well but the building is challenged ... it will not meet the needs long-term,” principal architect for the project Stacy Christensen told council.
Built in 1986 when the population was 4,182, the current eight-bay hall has only six to seven functional bays due to lack of space and operates at over capacity in an undersized hall.
The report recommended two fire halls for the future and 12 bays for equipment as the most effective model to deliver consistent service throughout the community.
The study determined Canmore Fire-Rescue requires one eight-bay hall and one four-bay hall, due to the “unique geography of the community.”
Current challenges identified in the report included that the tarmac is undersized for fire hall standards, there is insufficient parking, it does not allow for trucks to turn and back into the bays, insufficient clearance for fire trucks to turn right into 10th Street, the bays are undersized for current equipment sizes and due to lack of space, storage for the hall is accommodated in several other Town of Canmore sites.
Christensen also noted that the current hall is approximately 850 square metres while the standard eight-bay hall should be 1,800 square metres.
“We are double-dutying all over the place [with] bays functioning dual purposes,” Christensen said.
The study also notes due to the location and other factors, it has negatively impacted response times.
“This site has limited options for alternative routes to certain areas of Canmore. The intersection of 10th Street and Railway Avenue can be very busy at certain times of the day and in certain seasons with traffic blocking exiting emergency vehicle access and pedestrian and cyclists crossing in front the of apparatus bay,” stated the report.
The recommendation was that Canmore needs a non-centralized station due to the long geometry along the Trans-Canada Highway, as well as the remote nature of some neighbourhoods – with two options for a second fire hall location.
Option one is the construction of a new eight-bay fire hall within the next four years and the second four-bay hall construction within approximately 30 years. The second option includes a four-bay fire hall built first and an eight-bay fire hall built second.
“I think either option is a good one and either option is a good plan forward for the Town and fire service,” said Fire Chief Walter Gahler.
“The report captured what we had hoped for from a consultant and we did not pre-destine the report, that was strictly their direction and when we unpacked the report it made sense to us.”
Several locations were studied with the Palliser area noted as the most suitable location for an eight-bay fire hall and the Three Sister area chosen as a suitable location for the second four-bay fire hall.
This determination was made after four test locations representing some of the most isolated and/or difficult communities to reach within Canmore were put to the response time test. The potential sites outside of “heavily congested areas of the town” and located “closest to central intersections” along the Trans-Canada Highway had the best travel times.
“There is no single site within Canmore that can provide the ideal travel time to all neighbourhoods,” the study revealed, noting a 7.5-minute travel time for the full municipal area can be achieved by combining the two sites.
It was noted if the second option was chosen, the four-bay fire hall would need to be built slightly larger to accommodate spatial needs and the current fire hall would need a significant renovation to extend its useful life.
“We developed a full program not only for current needs, but also future needs,” Christensen said.
Council focused on the price differences in their questions, which general manager of municipal infrastructure Michael Fark explained in the long run “essentially comes out to be the same.”
The eight-bay fire hall recommended for Palliser Trail was estimated to cost $14.6 million and the four-bay hall in Three Sisters ranges from $6.2 million to $7.4 million depending on the option council chooses.
Locations along Palliser being considered are three publicly owned sites: beside the cemetery, across from the new Catholic Church or on a Canmore Community Housing Corporation owned lot in Palliser Lane that is currently an off-leash dog park.
Councillor Vi Sandford asked Christensen if there is an option to add temporary structures to the current fire hall to which the principal architect said “short answer, no.”
“There is no space ... Canmore is strapped for land,” Christensen said, noting the suggested Three Sisters four-bay fire hall would potentially allow for temporary facility, but council “needs a long-term solution.”
Gahler said he is “quite confident” in the proposals made in the draft report.
“I think it’s solid and now we just take it forward,” Gahler said.
The final report will return to council for acceptance at a regular council meeting.
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Canmore exploring fire hall options