By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It is a two-for-one deal for Oshawa Fire Services.
The contingent of firefighters were able to get a new fire hall and improve their protection across the city without having to hire any new staff or buy new fire trucks.
That new hall, Fire Hall 6, officially opened its doors in a ceremony on July 20. Sitting on the corner of Simcoe Street North and Britiannia, the station will be the main responder for wide swaths of the city’s north end, along with the newly opened expansion of Highway 407.
“It’s been a great project,” says Fire Chief Steve Meringer.
“We’re more than happy with it. Everyone has come through very well.”
“It provides that additional component to our city that makes us one of the safest places in all of Canada,” says Mayor John Henry.
Construction on Oshawa’s latest asset began in July 2015, and was constructed by Gay Company Ltd on a budget of $4 million, which also included design and furnishings.
In honour of the ground on which it is built, previously a horse paddock at Windfields Farm, the fire hall was designed in homage of a barn to honour the historic farm’s legacy in the city.
Although fire services needed to staff an entirely new fire hall, Meringer explains they were able to shift resources from the existing halls and still meet their response time targets. As a North American best practice, fire services attempt to reach a fire in under four minutes, with a full complement of staff needed for the incident arriving in eight minutes or less.
“This will bring us a lot closer up in the north end and, at the same time, our overall depth of coverage…we’re still able to achieve that city-wide,” he says.
Simply put, although fire services are more spread out, they are still providing the same level of service and protection for the entire city.
To do so, a pumper truck from Fire Hall 1 was shifted to 6 and an aerial truck from Fire Hall 3 was moved to 1, making 3 a one-truck hall, while 1 remains at its previous two-truck status.
“What we do is float from area to area,” Meringer explains, noting trucks from different stations will back-up other stations when more trucks are needed.
“So we’ve surrounded the area pretty well,” he adds.
However, the question remains regarding the hall’s back-up power system.
Nearing the end of the hall’s construction in March, The Oshawa Express learned that during the preliminary design work, a back-up generator was removed from the fire hall in order to save money on an estimate that was already over-budget.
When the issue came to light, Meringer explained his hopes were that the back-up system would be put back in the design if any surplus funds were realized. In May, the project was carrying a surplus of approximately $78,000. The cost of a back-up generator would range anywhere between $60,000 and $80,000.
Currently, Meringer says staff are undertaking a city-wide study of every fire hall’s back up system and are set to return in October with a go-forward strategy, “that will provide appropriate coverage for our stations as well as significant facilities in the city.”