By Trevor Suffield
Jan. 22, 2009
A nearly century old fire hall in St. James could soon be replaced, according to an official with the Winnipeg Fire Department.
Reid Douglas, deputy chief of support services for the city, confirmed that Station No. 11 on Berry Street near Portage Avenue is nearing the end of its usefulness.
The station was built in 1912 and was identified in a 2005 City of Winnipeg safety audit of fire and ambulance stations as a location that was coming to the end of its service life.
Douglas acknowledged that the building no longer serves the needs of city firefighters.
The building is, for the purpose we use it for, coming to an end of its life cycle, and it will cost us too much to fix it, he said.
Economics tells us we should replace the station which we do have in the plans for 2009.
The city has no plans at present for Station 11 once the building is vacated.
Construction of a new fire hall to replace the station is slated to begin later this year. Fire officials will not discuss the specific location of the new station as property negotiations are ongoing.
However, St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Fielding said city officials are looking at an acre of property bordered by Polo Park Shopping Centre to the east and Ferry Road to the west.
Fielding said he hopes construction of the new fire station begins soon.
Quite frankly, we probably already would have had shovels in the ground but there's a limit to the amount of space that's there in that area, Fielding said.
The city allocated $2.7 million in its 2008 capital budget for the replacement of Station 11, which will remain open while a new building is being constructed.
Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg Local 867, said he hopes the city is committed to building the new station despite the current economic downturn.
Forrest said the fire hall on Berry isn't the only one in need of replacement. He said that Station No. 18 on Roblin Boulevard near Harstone Road and another station in west Winnipeg will both need to be replaced in the near future.
For the past 20 or 30 years there has been no attention paid to the infrastructure of the fire halls within the city of Winnipeg, he said.
Forrest added that there are another six or seven fire halls in the city that should be replaced in the next three to four years.
Douglas said location is an important factor when it comes to determining where a new station will be located. Fire officials want to be able to maintain a four-minute response time, he said.
One of the options being considered for the new St. James fire hall is a drive-through set-up so that trucks can enter through the back and exit through the front of the building, he said. The location of the new fire hall will determine whether or not that is possible, he added.
Forrest said that it's important that the fire halls in west Winnipeg are replaced so that firefighters can continue to deliver the same level of service.
At the end of the day, it's not just about building a fire hall, said Forrest. It's about building the proper fire hall in the proper area to give the proper response.