About the Fire Hall Project
Bowen Island has outgrown its Main Fire Hall and the Grafton Road site it sits on. With more of us to protect, more volunteer firefighters, more and bigger equipment to house—and modern health, safety and service standards that it simply cannot meet—the Hall has become alarmingly deficient and leaves the community at risk.
Bowen Island Municipality is proposing to build a new Fire Hall and Emergency Operations Centre on the north end of Lot 3 of the Community Lands, located on the east side of Miller Road. It is envisioned as a modern facility of sufficient size to meet current and future needs, yet modest and affordable at the same time. The right facility in the right place, for the improved safety we all deserve.
The proposed building will be a seismically sound structure with a “modern rural” look and feel that fits with the Snug Cove area design guidelines. It will feature three double drive-through bays that will house six trucks, have space for an Emergency Operations Centre and a training and multi-purpose room, and be equipped with exhaust extraction to ensure a healthy interior environment.
An Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is a cornerstone of emergency preparedness and response. If a major emergency such as forest fire, flood, airplane crash or other catastrophe occurs, the EOC is activated and becomes the physical location where representatives come together to coordinate response and recovery, acting in a support role to emergency response personnel in the field.
Bowen Island’s temporary designated EOC location is the Satellite Fire Hall on Adams Road, but there isn’t enough space to run an effective response (there is backup power but no room). The secondary EOC is at Municipal Hall.
An EOC needs to be equipped with furniture, computers, primary and secondary communications equipment, information displays, office equipment, stationery, and required life support systems (rest areas, washrooms, kitchen, etc.). It should also contain copies of maps and relevant reference materials for quick access.
Our current facilities just do not have enough space to properly operate an EOC.
The estimated cost to construct the new Fire Hall and Emergency Operations Centre is $3,725,000, which will cost the average property owner about $68 dollars a year over the next 30 years.
In 2017, Bowen Island electors voted in favour of borrowing $3,000,000 for the construction of a new main Fire Hall and Emergency Operations Centre on Lot 3 of the Community Lands.
In September 2019, the tendering process returned unfavourable responses that were significantly higher than the available project budget.
After considerable review of the project design, staff and the project team refined aspects of the building to bring it as close to the available budget as possible. The current design is as modest as possible without compromising the minimum operations of the department to address the current community need.
To arrive at this figure, the Fire Hall Facilities Steering Committee (“the Committee”) studied facilities and costs from other communities of similar size and/or island communities, and consulted firms experienced in the design and construction of fire halls. We are confident that this facility will enable us to meet our goals for today and provide capacity for 50 years into the future.
A new Main Fire Hall and Emergency Operations Centre will help make Bowen Island safer, responsible and proud.
The proposed new Fire Hall will improve the quality of training and technology deployment that will become possible, and will improve the on-site safety and security of our volunteers.
The biggest boost to our safety will be the minutes that firefighters will save thanks to a properly organized, spacious, up-to-date facility.
The Committee has been diligent in its efforts to budget for an appropriate new Hall, and determined that a design based on a pre-engineered steel building will fulfill our current and future needs. The plan has been vetted by experienced experts, had thorough input from the Fire Chief and other local members, and has been benchmarked against similar communities on islands and elsewhere in rural British Columbia.
Additionally, financial planning for the new hall points to reduced operation and maintenance costs as a result of an efficiently planned new structure.
The chosen Lot 3 site has proven to be the easiest, most convenient, least expensive place on public land on which to build the new Fire Hall. It required a change in Official Community Plan designation to permit institutional use, but institutional use is already permitted elsewhere in Lot 3. Residential and commercial use will continue to be permitted.
A modern safe new Fire Hall will be a source of pride for our volunteers and the community.
Members of the Bowen Island Fire Rescue (BIFR) not only serve without pay, they often sacrifice income to serve – yet they continue to do so with dedication.
BIFR is keen to address the current and future needs of the department. A new hall with proper facilities will make recruitment of new members easier—especially the recruitment of women.
Unlike today’s situation, a new modern hall for volunteers will conform to WorkSafeBC regulations for proper working conditions and allow new provincial training standards to be met, such as proper HAZMAT procedures and enough space to clean potentially toxic gear.
Engineering reports confirm the inadequacy of the existing Fire Hall. It is worn out, and too small for the people and equipment it must accommodate. Even worse, it’s unstable. A 2001 seismic study found it could collapse in even a “moderate” earthquake.
Imagine: an earthquake reduces the Fire Hall to rubble, destroying the vehicles and life-saving equipment, and possibly volunteer members, within. This would severely inhibit the department’s ability to respond to a large-scale disaster. As residents of an island community, with no ability to have reciprocal service agreements with other municipalities, we are doubly at risk.
An array of additional problems are obvious: the makeshift space where firefighters don their protective gear is narrow and cramped. The back stairs have been condemned. The ladder truck only fits in its bay thanks to a hole cut in the back wall. Fire fighters must turn sideways to move around the vehicles.
Other critical deficiencies are less obvious: Small classroom space limits the department’s vital (and required) training activities. There is no space for an Emergency Operations Centre, which is currently wedged in a corner of the Satellite Hall on Adams Road. There is no space to properly meet standards for oxygen tank storage and filling, or for cleaning toxic gear. There also is no fire suppression sprinkler system, putting people, apparatus and the facility at additional risk.
SBCA: Self Contained Breathing Apparatus
The cumulative impact of these deficiencies can be measured in minutes of delay added to each and every callout. Precious time is lost because of the cramped and inadequate conditions inside and outside the Fire Hall. In some emergencies, those few minutes can make all the difference.
Renovating the existing structure is not feasible. In 2007, the Committee investigated this option and found it would be prohibitively expensive, given the other deficiencies. This means, regardless of location, a brand new building is required.
The existing site on Grafton Road is the wrong size and shape for a facility that meets today’s needs and standards. Critically, the small parking lot cannot accommodate the vehicles of the volunteers arriving for a callout, and near-collisions have occurred at the site’s narrow entrance.
The location of the current Hall is not ideal. Our Main Fire Hall should be in the Snug Cove area, much closer to the island’s densest population clusters and commercial structures.
The chosen Lot 3 location will mean that all neighbourhoods on the Island will be within 8 km of a Fire Hall, ensuring compliance with rural insurance standards and a lower assessed risk.