No decision has been made in relation to firehall, fire chief
By: Matt Durnan
| Posted: Thursday, Apr 03, 2014 11:33 am
Concerns among residents are still swirling around the possible relocation of the Main Street firehall to Williamstown in northwest Airdrie.
About 30 residents attended an open house at City Hall on March 27 to voice their displeasure with the potential relocation to Airdrie Fire Department (AFD) chiefs; members of Airdrie City council and officials from Behr Energy, the company that wrote the City’s Fire Master Plan.
Three main areas of concern were identified at the open house include response times, delays caused by the train tracks and lack of service for downtown residents.
Former aldermanic candidate Kevin Hughes has been outspoken against closing the Main Street firehall since council voted in favour of building a new hall in Williamstown on Feb. 3.
Hughes was on hand for the open house on March 27, and again spoke in opposition of relocating the Main Street hall to the city’s northwest.
“I’ve spoken to officials from CP Rail and they’ve told me there’s around 23 trains that pass through Airdrie every day, that’s almost one per hour,” said Hughes. “If the firehall is moved to Williamstown, we’re going to have a lot more incidents of (fire) trucks being delayed by trains.”
Former Airdrie Firefighter Randy Pollyck spoke on the proposed relocation, citing his own experiences with the department.
“The highway and the train tracks have always been a concern,” said Pollyck.
“I’m OK with closing down the Main Street location, but I’m not OK with the decision to move to Williamstown, there needs to be a firehall on the other side of the tracks.”
Gary Lock, a 30-year Airdrie resident agreed and suggested a location other than Williamstown.
“We need a centralized firehall,” said Lock. “Why can’t we rebuild at the Main Street location? Or look for land near the Superstore or by the new RCMP building. I’m not really seeing any kind of long-term plan with this move.”
AFD Chief Kevin Weinberger took to the microphone after the concerns of residents were heard by City staff, addressing as many questions as he could while stating, “no decision has been made with regards to closing the Main Street firehall.”
“There are a number of issues with that location, the HVAC (ventilation) is no good there,” said Weinberger.
“Our plan going forward is that we will need to revisit our Fire Master Plan yearly; we’ve identified the gaps with our level of service and we are not meeting response times in Williamstown and Reunion, we had to identify and solidify land to build a new hall, but we haven’t made a decision as to whether or not we will close Main Street (firehall).”
Alderman Fred Burley was one of five members of City council who was on hand for the open house and he stuck by the words of the fire chief.
“It’s important for residents to understand that no decision has been made yet for the Main Street hall,” said Burley. “We have to look at what is best for this city, if the fire department is not meeting response times in Williamstown that’s something that needs to be addressed.”
Alderman Candice Kolson said she understood the concerns of residents and that this process is part of the growth challenges the City faces.
“It’s an emotional topic for a lot of residents,” said Kolson. “Keeping up with growth challenges and infrastructure were two big concerns of our residents on the Citizen Satisfaction Survey, and having a firehall in Williamstown is part of that.”
Representatives from Behr Energy, who designed the Fire Master Plan were on hand with poster boards, illustrating what the AFD response model would be without a Main Street location.
“With this model, you can see that everywhere in the city can be responded to within the AFD’s target time of six minutes and 50 seconds,” said Isaac Comandante, manager of Emergency and Response Consulting Services with Behr.
“That’s without the interference of a train, which is obviously a challenge and a risk factor that we looked at.”
Chief Weinberger noted the risk involved with having a train track that runs through the entire city, and the AFD’s strategies to minimize its potential to interfere with emergency response.
“We know that anywhere between 17 and 24 trains pass through the city per day,” said Weinberger. “CP Rail has committed that they will block only two intersections at a time and not all three, but until we have overpasses it’s something that we have to contend with.”
The chief also explained that the AFD responds out of two, if not three stations for emergency calls, in order to mitigate the risk of having a train delay response time.
The earliest the AFD can move into the Williamstown location is October 2015, and in the meantime City staff and council will weigh the options on the fate of the Main Street hall.
AFD Chief Kevin Weinberger will lead a tour of the Main Street hall on April 10, residents who wish to attend can contact the City’s communications department at 403-948-8800.