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Burnaby to host open halls for questions on new firehalls

The long-awaited firehalls will serve residents on and around Burnaby Mountain

Burnaby Mountain firehalls fire department

City of Burnaby

The City of Burnaby is hosting open houses over the next few weeks so residents can learn more about two new long-awaited firehalls.

The new firehalls will serve residents living on Burnaby Mountain, and in the area of Duthie Avenue at the foot of the mountain.

The city said it has already opened a temporary firehall at UniverCity, but residents can visit the open house on Jan. 28 from 11am-2pm at 9055 University High St. to learn more about the plans to build a new permanent firehall. 

The city will soon break ground on the new Fire Station 8 on University Drive.

Meanwhile, a separate open house on Feb. 4 from 11am-2pm at Burnaby Mountain Golf Course will provide residents an opportunity to ask questions about plans to replace the old and outdated Fire Station 4 on Duthie Avenue with a new “state of the art facility.”

“The new facility will be on City-owned land on Greystone Drive, across from Squint Lake Park and directly adjacent to the Trans Mountain tank farm. It will replace the current Fire Station 4 on Duthie Avenue which was built in 1956,” the city said on its website.

“The new fire station is expected to be complete by the end of 2023.”

Residents have been calling for a firehall to be built on Burnaby Mountain for years, raising concerns about the time it would take emergency personnel to reach the neighbourhood in the event of an emergency.

A 2002 city report found that SFU and the Burnaby Mountain area was one of three areas in Burnaby where fire department response times “consistently exceeded the desired standard.

“We really started advocating strongly in the last three years. But there’s been a need up here—once the population hit over 4,000, from a permanent population in UniverCity that there’s been this need for a fire station and better fire services,” UniverCity Community Association president Mario Guisado told the Beacon last year.

Guisado said with more than 8,000 full-time residents of the mountain and thousands of daily visitors to SFU campus, the need for a new firehall is “urgent.”

“The concern really has been in time for response. We’re at the top of Burnaby Mountain and the fire stations are generally at the bottom of the hill. When there is an emergency, on average … It takes 15 to 20 minutes for a fire truck to get up to the mountain, and then to respond and to find the place,” he said.

Burnaby Fire Department Chief Chris Bowcock has also been a vocal advocate for a firehall on Burnaby Mountain, noting that more frequent and severe heat waves caused by climate change could cause grass fires near the Trans Mountain tank farm. 

He also stressed that the federal government should be responsible for funding that new firehall, as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is a federally-owned project.

In the spring of 2021, the Canada Energy Regulator said that Trans Mountain was able to successfully respond to a fire drill in two-and-a-half hours—“well within” the four-hour goal.

But that pronouncement did little to allay the concerns of not only Burnaby Mountain residents who spoke to the Beacon at the time, but the city’s mayor as well.

“I’m not sure, in two-and-a-half hours to four hours if there’s been a serious fire burning, they’ll even be able to get close to that place after burning for that amount of time,” said Mike Hurley, himself a former firefighter and former president of the local firefighters’ union, in Oct. 2021.

“But that’s just me. They say they can manage it. They have convinced the regulator that they can manage it. So we’re waiting with bated breath to see what their plans are, so we can build around that.”

In July of 2021 and shortly before the federal election was called, the federal government committed $30 million towards the Burnaby Mountain firehall in response to concerns from residents.

SFU has provided the site for Firehall 8 (on University Drive between Nelson Way and Tower Road) to Burnaby at no cost, the city said. Construction on the site is expected to begin early this year, and the firehall is expected to be operational by 2024.

You can read more from the city about Fire Station 4 here, and more about Fire Station 8 here.