Christmas will come early this year for East Sooke Fire and Rescue staff and volunteers, who will now be operating from a new, state-of-the art fire hall.
To celebrate, East Sooke Fire and Rescue will have a grand opening ceremony on Saturday (Dec. 12), at 1 p.m.
Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan, T’Sou-Ke First Nation Chief Gordon Planes, Capital Regional District chair Nils Jensen, CRD Juan de Fuca Director Mike Hicks, East Sooke Fire Commission chair George May and East Sooke Fire Chief Roger Beck will give short speeches followed by a ribbon cutting and tour of the facility.
The location of the new fire hall is 6071 East Sooke Rd., replacing the old fire hall at 1397 Copper Mine Rd.
The two-storey, 11,000-square- foot building can house six vehicles thanks to its six bays, five of which have already been filled: two tenders, a fire engine, a first-responder vehicle and a trailer.
Other features include a radio room, rack room, classrooms, laundry and storage room, a kitchen, activity room, washrooms and three offices. In other words, more than enough room to house the 28 volunteer firefighters and their equipment.
The modern facility was also built for the times and this part of the world with longevity in mind. Its all-steel construction allows it to fare well against the threat of forest fire, a feature that, thankfully, was sought from the beginning, said George May, chair, East Sooke Fire Commission.
“We’re happy the design went in favour of a steel building. It’s nice to have it finally done, it was a lot of work,” May said, adding that the new hall comes after two years of planning, budgeting and construction.
Strength was also in mind. The facility is earthquake-proof, and is built strategically on high ground, so it can survive any tsunami activity that may pass through the region.
It’s also what May and Hicks call a “post-disaster” building, so it can serve as a refuge for the people of East Sooke in the case of a serious emergency.
All that glitz may sound expensive, but May pointed out the community wanted a fire hall that was going to be modern, not crippling to their wallets.
And despite several delays in the design process and availability of materials, the new fire hall still retains the least cost per square foot of any fire hall on the Island.
The building was constructed by Verity Construction for a cost of $2,592,100, which was partially funded with a $150,000 Juan de Fuca Gas Tax contribution, according to a CRD report.
The East Sooke Fire Department also put $564,800 into the pot. The East Sooke Community will carry an additional loan of $1.8 million over the next 10 years.
The old fire hall won’t just become an empty husk, either.
While the East Sooke Fire Commission will continue to manage it, the Juan de Fuca land-based Search and Rescue team will be moving its operation to the top floor with three truck bays, offices and meeting room. On the bottom floor, the East Sooke community will utilize the meeting room, kitchen and washrooms.
“They [East Sooke residents] have built a first-class fire hall, kept their valued community hall and provided a home for our JDF Search and Rescue. I hope they come out and meet their volunteers that made it happen,” Hicks said.
The East Sooke Fire and Rescue crew will also be getting a new fire engine that will replace the current one sometime this month.