A new fire hall serving the Loon Lake community is a step closer to reality, following confirmation that a Crown Lease on 2.64 acres of land has been secured from the Province for 30 years.
The former Loon Lake fire hall — a critical piece of infrastructure for the community — was destroyed during the 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire. The Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) assumed responsibility for fire protection services in Loon Lake in January 2019, following a referendum in the community in 2018.
The TNRD has been working to secure land to construct a new fire hall, in consultation and cooperation with several stakeholders, including area First Nations and various Provincial ministries. The site designated for the new fire hall — which was identified through a Fire Services Review — is the former Loon Lake Provincial Park site, long since decommissioned, which is located approximately halfway along Loon Lake within eight kilometres of the most populous area of the community.
“We are thrilled to be able to announce this land tenure for the new fire hall,” says Jason Tomlin, Manager of Fire Protection Services for the TNRD.
“We’re extremely thankful for the support of MLA Jackie Tegart, Electoral Area ‘E’ Director Sally Watson, and the entire Loon Lake community for their patience during this lengthy process.
“The Loon Lake volunteer firefighters have shown incredible commitment and tenacity in keeping the community safe while working through some challenging conditions.”
Tomlin says that the new fire hall will be on the northern (high) side of the former park site, away from the water.
“The initial footprint [of the park] is on both sides of road, and we went for the high side. It’s easier to stay away from the lake side due to archaeological considerations, and makes the tenure less complicated.
“We’re doing some land improvements now. We have a licence to cut some trees, and will actively be pursuing that this fall, and the actual construction will begin in spring 2021.” Design work on the new fire hall and site is also underway.
Tomlin says that the Loon Lake firefighters are currently working out of a two-bay garage on the site of the former fire hall near the Transfer Station. “They use the community hall for training when they can’t train outdoors, and all their equipment is at the lake.”
He adds that a public consultation process following the 2017 fire identified the need for a second fire hall to act as an annexe to the main hall, due to the length of the Loon Lake community. Fire underwriters look at properties within an eight kilometre radius of a fire hall, and Tomlin says that the TNRD is looking for a good location for an annexe closer to the highway. “A second location would extend the potential for reduced insurance premiums.”
In 2018 Fraserway RV, through the Adventurer Foundation, committed $275,000 towards the construction of a new fire hall in Loon Lake, a project that the TNRD estimates will cost approximately $500,000. In 2019 Fraserway donated an additional $20,000 to the TNRD, to be used to purchase equipment storage for the Loon Lake, South Green Lake, Little Fort, and Blackpool Fire Departments.
Earlier in 2019, the Red Cross provided the Loon Lake Volunteer Fire Department (LLVFD) with $86,785 to replace equipment destroyed by the Elephant Hill wildfire. The money was to be used to replace items such as personal protective gear, fire hoses, and other specialized equipment, including a breathing apparatus air fill station.
“There’s some big ticket stuff in there,” said Tomlin at the time, noting that firefighting equipment is more expensive than similar items at a hardware store. “People say ‘Why can’t you buy a ladder from Home Depot?’ But the equipment needs to meet firefighting standards.”
Donations have also been received from a variety of other organizations and individuals, including the Clinton and District Community Forest, the Ashcroft and District Lions Club, and the Royal Bank. In the summer of 2017, local youths Wyatt Boettger, Cora Boettger, Mariah Todd, and Brooke Todd raised $1,100 for the LLVFD: Wyatt and Cora sold lemonade to raise the funds, while Mariah and Brooke made and sold jewellery.
In an ongoing effort to support the Loon Lake Volunteer Fire Department and the rebuild project, the TNRD’s Fire Protection Advisory Committee has started a community bottle drive fundraising program. Empties can be dropped off at the Loon Lake Transfer Station; they then get sorted, bagged, and sent in for refund.
The Loon Lake Fire Department is actively recruiting to add to its dedicated ranks. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.