New fire hall may not meet city’s needs

Building a $4-million fire hall at the top of Two Mile Hill contradicts the recommendations of the city’s latest Firestation Location Study.

Building a $4-million fire hall at the top of Two Mile Hill contradicts the recommendations of the city’s latest Firestation Location Study.

The city should obtain land for a new fire hall before 2003, reads the 32-page study, which was drafted for Whitehorse in 1997 by Langley, BC-based FireCon and Associates, a consulting fire-protection consulting company.

It recommends keeping fire hall No. 1 open.

It suggests the city build a new fire hall at the corner of Hamilton Boulevard and Sumanik Road “to provide the standard six-minute response” to city emergencies.

And it recommended the city build a new fire station in Porter Creek.

On Monday, council announced the new fire hall would be built at the top of Two Mile Hill, on the site of the existing satellite station.

However, that location prohibits firefighters from reaching Porter Creek, Copper Ridge and Riverdale within the recommended six-minute response window, established by the International Association of Fire Fighters (Canada division) and supported by the city.

The city has scrapped plans to build a fire hall in Porter Creek.

And it is now considering closing fire hall No. 1, a decision that would increase response times to Riverdale and downtown.

“It has been discussed by council, but we haven’t gone and made the final determination yet,” said city manager, Dennis Shewfelt.

The six-minute rule is not some arbitrary number, said fire chief Clive Sparks.

It was chosen based on how many fire halls the city can afford with its current tax base and how far away those halls are to certain parts of town and also how close they are to parts of the city where they receive the most fire calls.

Based on this, the Whitehorse fire department decided it could reach 90 per cent of the fire calls, 90 per cent of the time within six minutes.

“So it was looking at the risks, looking at the number of calls, looking at what we have in the areas to protect,” said Sparks.

“If you get at a fire earlier on, it’s more controllable; if you look at things as they happen — a fire progresses in a certain order — temperatures climb and that sort of stuff.

“So six minutes — if you’re there — is one of the response times that gives us a very good chance of stopping the fire very quickly; six minutes is one of those industry standards that we felt would be a reasonable level of response by the city.

“Sometimes that’s as good as you can do on a fire and sometimes if we arrive there in four minutes there’s no guarantee that we’d be able to save anything.”

In 2006, $100,000 was spent planning the new fire hall on Two Mile Hill, which, according to the nine-year-old study, will not improve service to its subdivisions.

Without fire hall No. 1 the problem gets worse. Toss in a new subdivision on the Porter Creek Bench, and the problem gets worse still.

According to the FireCon study, if fire hall No. 1 were to remain open and fire hall No. 2 were to be built in Porter Creek rather than at the top of Two Mile Hill, Porter Creek, Crestview and all other subdivisions would be accessible by engines dispatched from one of the two halls within the six-minute window.

If fire hall No. 2 were built at the south end of Hamilton Boulevard in Copper Ridge and fire hall No. 1 were to remain open downtown, all subdivisions would be reached by fire engines within six minutes.

The city has been planning a new fire hall for years.

It’s good the plan to build a new fire hall at the top of Two Mile Hill has gotten this far through the city budget process, said Sparks.