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A hall too small: Oak Bay fire plans portable storage for ladder truck

2023 ladder, pumper trucks on order for next year
Oak Bay Fire Chief Darren Hughes says there is a Plan B should the portable shelter not be ready in time for new ladder truck on order. (Black Press Media file photo)

Oak Bay plans to have a new portable bay available when a new ladder truck pulls in next year.

The truck is one of two apparatus scheduled to replace older vehicles in 2023.

During its March 14 meeting, council approved the purchase of two new trucks – a pumper and a ladder. They add up to about $3.35 million already prepared for – the existing pumper truck is at the end of its service life and the 2002 ladder truck reaches the end of its service life in July.

The heritage hall on Monterey Avenue, built in 1938 with an addition in 1967, can limit equipment size.

Previously, trucks were ordered and built within the height and length considerations. The 1967 portion includes two bays that are a little wider and were lifted a few inches to fit the 2002 ladder truck it currently houses.

RELATED: Council considers temporary storage to extend life of Oak Bay Fire Hall

This time, Oak Bay plans to purchase equipment best suited to the needs of the community. A 2023 Spartan pumper and a 2023 Smeal 105-foot rear mount aerial ladder truck were judged as the best fit for the community and the regional landscape – including maintenance capabilities.

Apparatus not common in a region can present parts and service availability challenges, resulting in extended periods out of service, Fire Chief Darren Hughes wrote in a report to council. Oak Bay fire has experienced apparatus out-of-service periods longer than three months due to parts and service constraints, and the lack of specialized local support.

That means Oak Bay needs to create temporary storage for the new ladder truck.

The latest draft of the municipality’s financial plan for 2022-2026 includes plans for the fire department to procure a portable apparatus bay.

It also includes a carry-over item from last year for a portable training site for adjacent to the station. The capital project to install a C-Can Based Training Prop near the fire hall factored in re-purposing the old drill tower. The tower was condemned and then removed last May.

Hughes assured council that while the plan for housing the ladder truck is in its early phases, Acting Deputy Chief Frank Macdonald – who will serve as chief when Hughes retires this spring – has been heavily involved in the process. A project charter is underway that will entail public and council consultation, he said.

READ ALSO: Esquimalt fire donates engine to help train First Nation departments across B.C.

What does one do with used fire apparatus?

Coun. Andrew Appleton posed the question of what will become of the trucks once replaced. Hughes noted there are many options to consider, including whether there’s value in asset recovery. However, considerations already underway include donations to First Nations or rural communities in need. But those options would likely come to council first.

READ ALSO: Training the bomberos

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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