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Back-up power systems coming to Oshawa fire halls

Outfitting generators will cost $385,000

Fire Hall 6, seen here, along with Halls 2, 3 and 4 will soon be equipped with back-up power systems. Last year saw several fire stations lose power, potentially hurting emergency services.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

It appears the City of Oshawa has found a solution to its back-up power problem, a problem that could have left residents vulnerable in the event of serious storm or power outage.

Following debate and delays, city council approved the fitting of permanent back-up generators to Fire Halls 2, 3 and 4 and 6, equipment set to cost approximately $385,000.

“It’s a great achievement,” says Derrick Clark, Oshawa’s fire chief. “I think it’s a great step in the right direction, certainly some really good work on behalf of city staff in being able to do some research and bring this forward, so I really commend the work in community services in getting this done.

The debate around generators in the city’s fire halls heated up this past summer when it was reported a back-up power system had been slashed from Fire Hall 6’s budget, the city’s newest hall, after all the bids to construct the building came in above the city’s $3.5-million budget.

The latest report explains that while the infrastructure was constructed to house the generator, the generator itself was left out. Currently, the project holds a $19,000 surplus, a number that was previously reported to be as high as $78,000. However, it will still require approximately $81,000 from the city’s fire equipment reserve to make up the difference.

It was from those discussions that council agreed to have staff look into the possibilities of having back-up power systems installed in all of the city’s fire halls. Currently, only Fire Hall 1 (the home of the fire services dispatch and radio systems) and Fire Hall 5 have permanent back-up power systems installed. Last year, approval was given for a portable generator to be shared between halls 2, 3 and 4 in the case of an emergency. However, that project was delayed.

Now, fire halls 2 and 4 will see the installation of 100kW generators capable of powering the entire facility in emergency situations. It is set to cost $190,000 for the pair to be purchased and installed with all of the required infrastructure. A similar generator is required for Fire Hall 3, as well with a $95,000 price tag.

Previously, $250,000 was set aside in the 2016 capital budget for the generators. However, an additional $35,000 will be needed from the fire equipment reserve to make up the difference.

For Clark, the equipment will make a big difference in times of trouble. According to the report, between 2011 and 2016, Fire Hall 2 experienced 35 power outages, while Fire Hall 3 experiened 24 and Fire Hall 4 22.

“That will allow us to truly supply 24-hour emergency services, plus look after our employees as far as rehab, maintaining equipment and being able to, for example, in stormy weather, when crews come back, we’ll have an area to dry their gear and ready for the next call,” he says. “(Also), should any residents in the area need to come to the fire hall for assistance, we’re open and available. It doesn’t look like the place is shut down.”

According to Councillor Bob Chapman, the plan is to have the generators up and running as soon as possible, and previous delays are attributed to potential options that fell through.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he says of the purchase. “The reason it took so long was because there was a secondary offer of how we could have done it, maybe more efficiently, and more cost efficiently. That fell through.”

Part of the original plan also would have seen a similar back-up power strategy developed for Oshawa’s recreational facilities. However, that option has been delayed as city staff continue to investigate a partnership with the Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation regarding Combined Heat and Power (CHP) units. A timeline was not provided for when those options would come to council.