Saanich council Monday has approved almost $27 million towards the re-development of Saanich Fire Hall No. 2
Perhaps fitting of its name, the building ranked second on a list of public facilities that Saanich staff had earlier slated for re-development. That report found that the current facility would have expand by 352 per cent to house four additional vehicles and staff in anticipation of future needs.
Only Saanich’s parks and public works yard ranked ahead of the fire station as a priority for re-development.
The public heard from Saanich Fire Chief Mike Burgess among other points that the existing facility located at the intersection of Elk Lake Road and Royal Oak Drive falls almost 50 per cent short of required storage needs for vehicles and reflects the needs of the municipality forty years ago when fewer people lived and travelled in the area.
(By way of background, Saanich’s population has grown by 50 per cent since the facility opened in 1978, according to the business case, and Burgess later told councillors that the department has to store some of its vehicles outdoors, a fact that has created continuous weather and security challenges).
“In addition to the increasing population and development density, not to mention high-volume traffic on the Pat Bay highway, there are a significant rural areas and forests not far away from the fire station,” he said. “This urban-to-rural interface is an increasing concern given present and forecast climate change data advising of drier summers and the increasing threat of fire.”
Burgess also pointed out that the existing building “also falls far short” of meeting current building code standards that would allow the facility to function “with minimal damage” following an earthquake.
Plans themselves call for a new building with an area of 21,963 sq. ft. The current facility has an area of 3,800 sq. ft. Construction including demolition of the existing building would take about 18 to 20 months with the new building set to open in 2023 following design and permitting running from 2019 to 2021, said Burgess.
“Redeveloping this facility reflects the ongoing commitment of Council and the Saanich Fire Department to providing high quality service and ensuring public safety, both now and in the future,” said Mayor Fred Haynes in a release.
Saanich staff will be working through the development permit process in the coming months.
As for the facility at the very top of Saanich’s priority list, “high level estimates” peg its re-development costs at $63.3 million. Staff stress that this figure is not a project budget.