Nearly five years after it was destroyed in the Elephant Hill wildfire, work is set to start on a new fire hall at Loon Lake.
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) — which assumed fire protection services for Loon Lake following a referendum in 2018 — has announced that construction will begin in spring 2022, with work expected to be complete later this year.
For the last four years the Loon Lake Volunteer Fire Department has operated out of a two-bay garage built on the site of the former fire hall. The new hall will be built on a 2.64 hectare site further along the lake that was formerly Loon Lake Provincial Park, with the hall on the north side of the road (away from the lake).
Construction was expected to start in spring 2021, but was delayed after the bids to build the new hall came in higher than expected. At its meeting on Nov. 18, the TNRD board voted to award a contract for the design and construction of the new hall to West Alliance Construction Ltd., at a cost not to exceed $1,264,120.
Ian Dalgleish, the TNRD’s Manager of Capital Projects and Facilities, says that they’re excited to get the project moving after a series of delays and setbacks.
“Securing the property took longer than we had hoped, and then we ran into issues with COVID and the supply chain, which inflated the price when we put it out to tender,” he explains. “We had to do a re-group, so went to a different procurement model. We designed and tendered the original one, and that came in over budget, so we went back to the construction company and went with a design/build model.”
The contractors looked at different locations on the lot which would mean fewer earthworks, and switched to a building made of concrete pre-cast instead of metal. However, Dalgleish says there were few changes to the proposed floor plan.
The new hall will be approximately halfway along Loon Lake Road, within eight kilometres in either direction of the most populous area of the community. The TNRD has secured a 30-year Crown Lease of the property.
Long-term use of the current facility is now being considered. Jason Tomlin, the TNRD’s Manager of Fire Protection Services, says that the Fire Underwriters Survey gives the dwelling protection grade that insurance companies use, and which reduces fire insurance costs for structures within eight kilometres of a fire hall.
“Eight kilometres either side of the proposed new hall takes you just past where the two-bay garage is,” he explains. “If we use that as a satellite we can go another eight kilometres down the road, but we also need a minimum number of firefighters in that area. So we need a location that extends the area for the FUS rating, but also has firefighters living in proximity. The further we get from population density, the less chance we have of meeting that minimum standard.”
Borrowing for the new fire hall project cannot exceed $653,000, which was approved by the community through referendum. Other funding sources include a generous donation of $275,000 previously made by Fraserway RV, as well as public donations. Electoral Area “E” also allocated $150,000 for the project. The increased cost of building the new fire hall means there is not enough to build a completely new satellite hall further west of the two-bay garage.
Sally Watson, the director for Area “E”, says she is cautiously overjoyed by the news about the new hall construction.
“I hope it will get finished this year, but I’m not signing any promises.” She adds that turning the current hall into a satellite will not be without difficulties.
“The first pricing of the new hall was lower, but the cost has exploded, and we can no longer build the first fire hall except for the cost of what we had budgeted for two. The satellite hall is questionable at this time, but still in the hopeful file.”
Tomlin recognizes the dedication of members of the Loon Lake Volunteer Fire Department. “They have done a tremendous job serving the community under challenging conditions, since the Elephant Hill wildfire.
”We look forward to serving the Loon Lake area with this new fire hall.”