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Burnaby expects to start construction on SFU fire hall in spring 2024

Work is already getting underway at the City of Burnaby for the creation of a new fire hall up on Burnaby Mountain.

Construction is expected to start spring 2024—well beyond the projected 2022 date from the fire department’s needs assessment—according to a report to the city’s financial management committee. For now, the city is working on a feasibility study.

In 2019, the city began a needs assessment for the fire department, which called for two stations to be built by 2022—one in the Big Bend area and one on Burnaby Mountain.

The timeline now put forward for just the Burnaby Mountain fire hall appears to extend that significantly, with no mention of a Big Bend fire hall.

A request for proposals was posted on BC Bid for a consultant on phase 1 design work, according to the report from Wednesday last week. As of Monday this week, however, the post on BC Bid had been taken down.

City spokesperson Chris Bryan confirmed that the RFP process has closed, and the city is “evaluating proposals (in partnership with SFU) before we award the contract.”

Bryan said the city expects to put out more information on the process later this week.

Phase 1 design work is expected to cost the city $1 million, according to the report.

A consultant is expected to begin work with the city in fall this year, completing the feasibility study in early 2022. By the end of 2022, the city expects to have conceptual design, SFU-related approvals, and a rezoning application completed.

Between then and the anticipated 2024 start date, the staff report stated tender documents, building permits, and tender would be in the works.

The fire department has been pushing a Burnaby Mountain fire hall for some time. Fire Chief Chris Bowcock told the Beacon in summer that such a fire hall should be funded by the federal government, citing the risks of a major fire from the Trans Mountain tank farm.

“What was explained to many of us citizens is that that facility is in the national interest, which is why the facility moved forward with this development,” Bowcock said.

But if local residents are facing the risks from such a facility, Bowcock reasoned that mitigation should come from the government that pushed the project forward.

He also noted concerns around response times not only for emergencies at the tank farm but also for the SFU campus atop the mountain.

The 2019 needs assessment conducted for the fire department “identified gaps in services and forecast future fire service needs,” last week’s staff report stated.

“The study identified that response coverage to BurnabyMountain is inadequate and poses a risk for the community on Burnaby Mountain. Additionally, the widely varied land uses on the mountain, which includes institutional, industrial, multi-family residential, and wildland interface present a varied and ever-changing risk.”

The needs assessment suggested 20 firefighters for the fire hall.

The Burnaby Now, however, reported in April 2020, when the needs assessment report came out, criticism from one of the city’s independent councillors.

“The vast majority of the consultation, however, appears to have taken place within the fire department alone,” Coun. Colleen Jordan said in a letter to council, noting that of 14 people interviewed only five were not firefighters.

Jordan called the review a “costly exercise which puts forward the equivalent of a wish list of the fire department.”

And Bowcock got his wish later in the summer, with a pre-election announcement from Burnaby North-Seymour MP Terry Beech, now re-elected to the position, and deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland of $30 million in funding.

And in early August, the city landed on a location for the fire hall: Discovery Park. The park is a wooded area in the southeast corner of the SFU campus, at the intersection of Tower Road and University Drive East.