Nanaimo’s $17M firehall ready for tenders

Construction of Nanaimo’s new $17-million, three-storey main fire hall and post-disaster emergency-services centre is set to go out for tender in December, in order for the building to be in operation by September 2022.

Draft designs for a dramatic black, red, white and gold building were unveiled to city council this week. The project was approved by Nanaimo residents last year.

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The colour black reflects the city’s coal-mining history, while red stands for the fire station, and clear glass bay windows allow the public to see inside and bring light to the interior. The glass is intended to be reminiscent of Nanaimo’s waterfront.

“I think it stands out as a strong civic building that acts as a gateway to our downtown core and symbolizes modern architecture, while paying historical respect to our history through the arts components,” said Fire Chief Karen Fry, who plans to meet with First Nations officials about featuring Indigenous art in the building.

The existing 1967 main fire hall at 666 Fitzwilliam St. does not meet today’s building code. Even if that building was fixed up, it would need to be rebuilt in 10 years, a city document says.

It was seismically upgraded in 1999, but if an earthquake occurred, it would likely be damaged to the point where it could not continue operating, Fry said.

Fire services personnel and services will be consolidated in one building. The fire prevention and fire administration offices are currently in the city’s former library at 580 Fitzwilliam St.

The new building will house Fire Station No. 1 operations (fire crews), fire dispatch for 25 mid-Island communities, the emergency co-ordination centre, and offices for fire and loss prevention and administration, she said.

The approximately 23,000-square-foot building will be constructed in the parking lot at 618 Fitzwilliam St., behind the main fire station, which will be dismantled after the move, Fry said.

The main floor will hold the truck bays, plus dorms for firefighters, designed with separate spaces to accommodate diversity in fire crews, Fry said.

Because this is a fire station, staff must be able to reach trucks within 60 seconds from the farthest place in the building, she said.

All of the fire operations will be on the main floor, with no fire poles, since poles can lead to injuries, she said.

The main level will have 21Ú2 truck bays, down from the existing five. The original station was built when it was the only one in town and it was overbuilt, Fry said. Now, there are other stations in Nanaimo.

Nanaimo’s new ladder truck, to provide access to downtown highrises, will be located in the building, she said.

The second floor will mainly hold communications and fire-prevention offices, while the emergency communications centre and administration offices will be on the top level.

Coun. Ian Thorpe welcomed the update, calling the new station “long overdue.”

This is the second major public construction project to move ahead in recent days in Nanaimo. The province is spending up to $170 million on a new 226-unit Nanaimo Correctional Centre, to open in spring 2023.

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