It’s cute, it’s iconic, but the picturesque Oak Bay Fire Hall is becoming too small for a modern firefighting department.
The hall still fits Oak Bay Fire Department’s 30-year-old fire engine which is beyond its serviceable life, and a 2002 ‘quint’ truck that is nearing the end of its serviceable life. But the new engine won’t fit in the 1962-built bay (an addition to the original 1938 building). As a result, the fire department is also adding a new temporary storage unit (a shipping container) that will go somewhere on the property.
Council voted unanimously to include all three in the 2020 financial draft plan at last week’s budget meeting subject to final approval, though they had previously approved the two new fire trucks. In 2018, council approved the construction of a semi-permanent shelter to be built behind the fire station. That project never happened due to engineering challenges and inadequate funding. It was deferred with hopes of renovating, and re-sizing, one of the 1938 bays. But it also became apparent that renovating the bay was complicated said the staff report.
The trucks were re-approved as part of a $3.6 million package that includes $1.3 million for the engine, $2 million for the quint and $250,000 for a door renovation to the 1938 bay. The schedule also approved a five-year lease of a shipping container-style portable storage facility at $90,000 per year that offers a $150,000 buyout after five years for a total of $600,000.
Oak Bay Fire Chief Darren Hughes said the options were there to make sure the council is fully aware of the challenges the department is facing.
“To have the purpose-built engine and quint, to have them service the community properly, we need to make a decision on what to do now,” Hughes told council.
The new quint truck will have a 100-foot ladder, as dictated by the tallest building in Oak Bay, which is 10 stories. The current quint only reaches 75 feet (it was purpose-bought at that size due to the size restriction of the bay).
“We are at a crossroads right now with two pieces of apparatus that are in need of replacing,” Hughes said. “As it was in 2002, we raised the bay door and still had to cut [10 feet] off the quint ladder, and it’s not our reliable piece of equipment.”
There will be a consultative process on where a temporary building would go, Hughes said.
However, at some point in the next 15 to 20 years, Oak Bay needs to consider a replacement fire hall, Hughes added. Sidney opened a new fire hall in 2019 and Victoria recently approved a new fire hall off Cook Street.
For now, Oak Bay will continue to boast one of the prettiest and most charming fire halls in Western Canada.
– This story was updated to clarify that the proposal for a temporary shelter remains subject to final approval in the draft financial plan.