The City of Yellowknife’s fire hall could be getting an upgrade to make it bigger and better.
City administration says the facility is ageing and no longer meets the needs of Yellowknife’s emergency services. On Monday, staff recommended that the building be renovated and expanded.
Since the fire hall was built in 1989, the fire department has transitioned from a composite department – one with both career and volunteer firefighters – to a full-time fire and emergency medical service. In 2014, the city’s dispatch was moved to the fire hall.
While an expansion in 2011 improved heating and ventilation, a 2020 study identified several deficiencies.
The report found the fire hall’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems aren’t effective and don’t serve the entire facility. That’s an issue because heating systems are essential to air-drying turnout gear (the name for firefighters’ personal protective equipment).
That gear is currently stored on the hall’s main apparatus floor rather than in a separate, ventilated room.
The report said washroom facilities are insufficient and accessing hot water is difficult, as the water supply is shared between the showers and the apparatus bays. With only two showers, the report says it’s difficult for firefighters to fully decontaminate.
The report stated the fire hall has no air locks or currents between mechanical and living areas and there is no diesel emissions control system that directly connects to apparatus. Prolonged exposure to diesel exhaust has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary disease, respiratory disease, and lung cancer.
Finally, the report said there are several accessibility issues such as a lack of accessible parking, walkways, outdoor seating, and entrance signage.
The report proposed four options to improve or replace the fire hall:
- renovating and expanding the current fire hall, projected to cost $3,177,900;
- demolishing the building and replacing it with a larger fire hall, projected to cost $6,671,400;
- adding a satellite fire hall at the Yellowknife Airport, projected to cost $224,400 and improve response to emergencies on Highway 3, Deh Cho Boulevard, Osprey Road and in the Engle Business District; and
- adding a satellite fire hall in the Niven Lake area, projected to cost $2,762,000 and improve response time to emergencies in Yellowknife’s downtown, Niven, and Old Town areas.
In a meeting with councillors on Monday, city administrators recommended renovating and expanding the existing facility as the “most cost-effective path forward.”
City administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett said even if council were to approve adding a satellite fire hall, improvements would be needed at the existing facility.
Councillors will vote on City Hall’s recommendation on February 8. If approved, staff will make a capital request for money to complete the project in Yellowknife’s 2022 budget.