By Emily Miller
Special to the Gazette
A new era of safety response and technology in View Royal began Saturday with the ribbon cutting for the new public safety building.
The construction of the facility, which began last year, was a must for the community, and residents, city council members and invited guests welcomed it with open arms as it was officially opened.
“The building is marvellous, I am really glad that they have as much space as they need,” said Beverly Faulks, who has been a part of the View Royal community for 54 years.
Having been operational for a few months now, the new fire hall has had people coming through its doors every day to have a look, with visitors ranging from people in the neighbourhood to representatives from other fire departments around Greater Victoria.
The building is not only home to the town’s volunteer fire department, it also houses the offices of bylaw enforcement, emergency management and building services; “one-stop shopping for protective services,” said Fire Chief Paul Hurst.
“For the community of View Royal, it has added a great landmark, as the building sends a message that the View Royal Fire Department is prepared and equipped,” Hurst said.
Recalling that the idea of creating a new public safety building for the town had been in the works for more than a decade, retired mayor Graham Hill said the first trial for the project was rejected in 1999.
“The fast-track method – that was rejected,” he said. “Then we went back to the community and gave them the information that they needed for an informed decision.”
Today, the building seems to have become an icon matching what the community of View Royal stands for. “It has function, it has utility, it was a project under budget and yet it fills all those demands that are needed for a very technical station,” Hill said.
View Royal Mayor David Screech was a councillor during deliberations around the new hall, which saw residents initially reject a $7.9-million loan for the project in 2012, but then approve borrowing $5.49 million in a referendum that fall.
“We have had some difficult times getting it all together with the community, but I’m sure now that everyone is happy to be behind the building and see it here,” he said.
Hurst said the old fire hall at 283 Island Hwy. was in major need of an upgrade.
“It was originally built in 1957. There was no separation between the trucks and work space. We had mice and rats living in the floors,” he recalled. “There was no emergency operating centre. The site was .4 of an acre and there was nowhere to train, park or any place to put guests.”
With no heat in the building – the bay floor would sometimes drop to nearly freezing temperatures, Hurst said – firefighters couldn’t stay on site.
Public tours of the old facility during open houses, a mainstay for the department over the years, had to be well timed, added Lt. Robert Marshall, a View Royal firefighter since 2006.
“At the old building we had to have the kids sit on the dirty bay floor and we couldn’t do tours in the winter because it was too cold,” he said. The new building gives so much more opportunity for education and fire prevention training for visiting school children, he added. “It’s like night and day. We have carpeted floors, so now all the kids can do the stop, drop, and roll.”
At the official ceremony, Esquimalt-Royal Roads MLA Maurine Karagianis called the new building “fantastic” and “state-of-the-art.” She echoed Hill’s comments about it taking a long road to get here.
Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Randall Garrison added that with the new building, “the community has grown a lot.”
One of the most important necessities the new building allows is greater speed and shorter response time to emergency calls. Since the building has moved further north on Island Highway, it is virtually in the dead centre of View Royal.