KELOWNA – When it comes to saving lives and homes, getting to an emergency as quickly as possible is crucial. For this reason, a new fire hall in North Glenmore will be built to shorten response times, but it’s not going to come as early as some people wanted.
In a close 5-4 vote, Kelowna council decided not to build the fire hall five years earlier.
Dennis Miller, president of the Kelowna Professional Firefighters Association, said the decision is disappointing.
“This [existing] station is just in the wrong location. It’s as simple as that,” said Miller.
The current station is located on Valley Road in North Glenmore.
Miller said firefighters have a goal to reduce response times to seven minutes and 40 seconds, but that isn’t achievable where the current station is located.
“They won’t realize those response time targets that they’re looking for for those further out areas, such as UBCO and Quail Ridge.”
The City of Kelowna hasn’t decided where the proposed new fire hall will be, but Miller is hoping it can be near Glenmore Drive and John Hindle Drive, where it is closer to the north end of Kelowna.
“This isn’t a nice to have, it is a need to have,” said councilor Mohini Singh. She’s one of the councilors who voted to have the project fast tracked.
“I would like to see us reduce response time for firefighters to get to an emergency. I’d like to see them get there sooner than later, even by a second or two minutes.”
But Mayor Colin Basran does not believe safety will be compromised if firefighters continue to work out of the existing station.
“Obviously our fire chief is the fire expert. If the fire chief says it is satisfactory to use for the time being, then council is satisfied that’s the way to go,” he said.
To meet the demands of projected growth, the city is expediting the hiring of permanent firefighters.
By 2019, 20 new fulltime firefighters will join the on-call staff. The existing fire station will be upgraded for the time being.
But Miller hasn’t given up hope that the fire hall can’t be built sooner.
He’s hoping council will change their minds if the issue gets brought up in the 2018 budget talks.