Wain Road fire hall ready to go

North Saanich Volunteer Fire Department hosts an open house Saturday

North Saanich fire chief Gary Wilton stands in front of the upgraded and expanded Wain Road fire hall. The department holds a public open house this Saturday at 1 p.m.

The doors of the new fire station on Wain Road in North Saanich will roll up on Saturday as the volunteer department hosts a public open house.

After just under a year and just a little more than $1.6 million, the North Saanich Volunteer Fire Department has an upgraded fire hall — more room for its firefighters and trucks, better training facilities, including a tower, and it’s a lot safer, thanks to seismic improvements.

Fire Chief Gary Wilton says he’s very proud of the building, which is a combination of the original hall from the early 1970s and a whole new structure added on to it. The older building was refitted to help it endure an earthquake, while the new side was built to a very high seismic standard. The improvements, Wilton said, were done to ensure local volunteer firefighters have the room to do their jobs.

“The hall was originally built in 1970,” Wilton explained. “There was no full-time crew in those days and the trucks were a lot smaller. Now, we have three full-time crew and a full-time administrative assistant and much bigger trucks.”

In the old hall, he said equipment had to be removed  from the trucks in order to make them fit into their stalls.

That left very little room inside for firefighters to change into their protective gear.

“We took over every nook and cranny in a building that was not designed for full-time staff.”

The district hired Island West Coast Developments to build the  addition and upgrade the old hall. Wilton said he was very happy with their work and their use of local contractors as much as possible.

The new space, said Wilton, means the volunteers have room to train more and enjoy their work environment — an important consideration when looking to retain firefighters. Plus, if they are training in the hall, they are closer to the action wen an emergency call comes in.

The upgraded and expanded facility, said the chief, will meet the needs of the department for many years to come.

On Saturday, the open house starts with a ribbon cutting at 1 p.m., featuring local dignitaries including MP Elizabeth May and new MLA Gary Holman.

Staff and volunteers will provide tours of the fire station and Wilton said they will be taking a straw poll of the public to see if they favour a paint job for the concrete tower.

New signs and interior decorations are still going up and Wilton added the department plans to put a time capsule in the tower to commemorate the event — to be opened again in 25 years.