The Board and the Advisory Committee are keenly aware of the impact of COVID-19 on the local community and the economy in planning for a replacement for the Ganges Fire Hall – the main hall and operations centre for the Island’s emergency response. We are doing the research necessary to identify actions and options and will continue to inform and engage the community in the process.
As recently announced, the community volunteer-based Fire Rescue Advisory Committee and the Board of Trustees reviewed the two detailed technical reports on the status of the Ganges Fire Hall. Both reports provide conclusive evidence that the building nor the physical site are suitable for rebuilding: the site is not seismically sound, it is too small, and it would cost in the millions of dollars to retrofit. As a result, the District is now investigating the Brinkworthy site, a property the District already owns, thanks to a generous donation.
Additional items discussed at both the recent Advisory Committee and Board meetings included:
- Access to water is key and the Board is meeting with the North Salt Spring Waterworks, recognizing there is a moratorium on new connections. Other options, such as drilling a well, are also being explored.
- Both the Advisory Committee and the Board recognize the potential value in partnerships such as a shared Emergency Operation Centre and the Board Chair and CAO are meeting with the Capital Regional District to explore options.
- The District is also reaching out to ensure area First Nations are informed and engaged in the process.
The Baseline Needs Assessment report also outlines a number of additional recommendations, including that the process for a replacement hall should:
- Be based on common understandings of affordability and need
- Consider how much space is needed for the fire hall, administration offices, and any potential
- Should be based on a long-term vision for fire protection for the island
- Designed by professional architects and engineers as required by law, and based on criteria provided by Committee and Board, and functional needs as provided by firefighters, staff, and others.
In the meantime, steps are underway to obtain quotes to address the short-term and immediate repair issues at the Fire Hall such as the roof and the electrical panel, as discussed at previous meetings. The Advisory Committee and the Board will be addressing these topics in upcoming meetings.
Online Open House
Given current physical distancing requirements, the District will be hosting an online ‘open house’ and discussion to provide information about the process to-date, discuss site and building considerations, and to answer questions from the community in the coming weeks (date to be confirmed).
The Open House will be online via video. As the live presentation airs, you will be able to join in the discussion by asking questions and having them answered by the panelists in real time. The presentation will also be recorded and you will be able to ask additional questions at any time.
Information to promote the event and boost participation will be published in local media, on the District’s website and on the Salt Spring Fire Rescue’s social media channels.
Reports Recommend New Home for Ganges Fire Hall
Two recent reports confirming the status of the Ganges Fire Hall were reviewed by both the Salt Spring Island Fire Protection District Board of Trustees and the Fire Rescue Advisory Committee of community volunteers. The full reports, as well as the Board Report with the Advisory Committee recommendations can be found on the Salt Spring Fire Rescue website:
1. 2020 Fire Station Baseline Needs Assessment, prepared by FireWise Consulting
2. 2020 Update, Fire Fall No. 1 Structural Assessment Report, prepared by Herold Engineering
3. April 27, 2020 Fire Protection District Board Report
These reports provide evidence-based assessments of both the 60-year-old building and the site, information that is critical for making informed decisions about the future of the Fire Hall. The reports conclude that the condition of the building and size of the site cannot support a modern fire hall, and it would be cost-prohibitive to bring it into compliance with the current building code and other legislative and regulatory requirements for fire protection and public safety.