Built with volunteer labour and rough hewn logs 30 years ago, Highlands east fire hall is nearing its final days.
Too small for today’s fire trucks and not designed to modern post-disaster standards, Highlands is working on a plan to replace the station.
“The building is not earthquake proof, there is no doubt in my mind that this building won’t stand up,” said Highlands fire Chief Guy Brisebois.
“After the ‘big one’ hits we would have three fire trucks under a pile of rubble. Trying to bring it up to a standard to be earthquake proof is pretty much impossible.”
Aside from not being seismically sound, the building on remote Woodridge Place is also experiencing plumbing and electrical problems. “There comes a time when you just need to replace it,” Brisebois said.
The process is still in the planning stages, but Brisebois is hoping by the end of the year there will be progress with the project.
“In last year’s budget we set in an amount (of money) for the plans of replacing the fire hall. I hope we would get that done in this term,” said Highlands Mayor Jane Mendum. “This is the first time (The District of) Highlands has planned a fire hall.”
Preliminary plans so far include the station being one storey instead of two and having two bays instead of three.
Built by volunteers in three phases starting in 1982, the east fire hall was the first fire hall in Highlands.
Brisebois said it was built with enough space to be used as a meeting place for council and other events. With a Highlands community centre in the works, he said any new hall doesn’t need to have additional space.
“We are looking forward and we might not have a need for three trucks in the future,” Brisebois said. “Seventy-five per cent of our calls are to the west fire hall.”
The building is showing its age with cracked doors and wobbly stairs. Brisebois said he doesn’t like to have large numbers of people on the second floor at any given time.
Downstairs, there is little wiggle room once the trucks are in the bays and modern fire trucks are only getting bigger.
An indoor staircase had to be removed to fit in a new pumper truck. Before getting new vehicles, the department makes sure they will fit in the building.
The original building was framed with small logs, in lieu of beams, and designed in a way that it could be added to when the department raised more money.
At that time, the department operated solely on money invested by its residents. People of Highlands could pay $50 to be covered by the department in case of a fire. If a household did not pay the fee, they were not covered.
The west fire hall on Millstream Road was originally built by Langford as Langford Fire Station No. 4 in 1987 to more professional building standards than the east hall. Brisebois expects the west fire hall would need to be replaced in about eight years.
“At the end of the day (the east hall) was built by a bunch of great guys trying to put something together,” Brisebois said. “It was the volunteers who built this.”