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Council discusses relocation of Main Street Fire Hall

By: Matt Durnan

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jan 23, 2014 12:18 pm

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Airdrie council has taken the first steps towards relocating Airdrie’s Main Street Fire Hall.

Council voted in favour of first reading of three bylaws that would redesignate lands in Williamstown to accommodate the construction of a firehall and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) station.

Airdrie Fire Department (AFD) Chief Kevin Weinberger spoke to council on Jan. 20 about the need to relocate the Main Street Fire Hall in order to improve response times in the city’s northwest corridor.

“Currently, we are not meeting response standards in the northwest of the city,” said Weinberger.

“With the growth and development in that area, it’s a need for us to have a station there to meet these standards.”

In 2013, the AFD responded to 1,225 requests for service, while maintaining an average response time from dispatch to first unit arriving on scene of five minutes and 34 seconds, which not only meets, but exceeds the standard of six minutes and 50 seconds, according to Weinberger.

“However, response times for 73 calls in 2012 and 2013 to the Williamstown and Reunion areas, we had an average response time of seven minutes and 13 seconds, which is 23 seconds longer than the targeted response time that we strive to achieve,” said Weinberger.

The AFD Fire Master Plan originally called for a relocation to the Gateway area, but a community risk assessment conducted by AFD determined that it would not be suitable, due to constrictive road design, according to Weinberger.

“At the outset of our study, the northwest quadrant of the city was identified as the area with the most immediate need,” said Weinberger, who went on to explain that the northeast quadrant of the city will be considered as a future location for a fourth station as development continues in that area.

“A station in the northwest will address residential growth in that area while still maintaining coverage for the downtown core.”

The Main Street fire station is currently designated as the first response to calls in the northwest.

Weinberger explained that if crews from the Main Street station are already out on a call, the response time for a truck from King’s Heights or Chinook Winds to reach the northwest is over eight minutes, which occurred three times in 2013.

The cost associated with constructing a new fire station in Williamstown is estimated at $3.69 million, an expense that was anticipated and included in the 2014 capital budget.

“This was a very contentious issue during the election, and I think it needs to be made clear that this isn’t the closure of the Main Street firehall, it’s relocating it and in my mind this is going to give us better service and better coverage,” said Alderman Allan Hunter.

Deputy Mayor Ron Chapman asked Weinberger for clarification on the AFD’s response model.

“I just want to clarify that when a fire call comes in, it’s not just the one firehall that’s responsible for that area that responds,” said Chapman.

“As soon as a call comes in you’re responding from all three halls correct?”

Weinberger confirmed Chapman’s assertion, stating, “based on our incident types, we respond out of two stations and possibly three for any structure fire.”

The chief explained relocation to the northwest will result in a drop off in response times in areas such as Tower Lane Mall, though the AFD will still be able to meet their standard in that area.

“Response time to Tower Lane Mall would no longer be a minute and a half, it would be an additional two minutes coming from the northwest,” he said.

In order for the City to proceed with the design and construction of a firehall in Williamstown, the land use bylaws that were unanimously approved must now pass through public hearing and council approval must be given to second and third readings at a future council meeting.

Airdrie Meadows resident Debbie Cunningham started a petition against the relocation of the Main Street Firehall in October, 2013.

To date, the petition has garnered over 1,000 signatures according to Cunningham, with the majority coming from residents who live west of the QE II highway.

Cunningham plans to attend the public hearing and hopes that she will have the support from her fellow residents.

“The people who live in the downtown core are hot and mad about this issue,” said Cunningham.

“Some of us have lived in this city for more than 40 years and we’ve paid more than enough in taxes to keep that Main Street station where it is.”

Residents can attend the public hearing at City Hall on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m.


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