By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Council has given thumbs up on the first step necessary to establish a Fire Training Facility on East Boundary Road. Councillors voted unanimously Tuesday night in favour of allowing the Morinville Fire Department to enter into a joint use agreement with their St. Albert counterparts. Both departments will contribute equally towards the estimated $25,000 for the first two phases of the project.
Morinville Fire Chief Ron Cust said the facility would allow for cost-effective local training that would better enable his firefighters to acquire the skills needed to perform their duties. It is training Cust feels is important as the community moves ever closer to a population of 10,000.
“What is being proposed is a site at the water reservoir that allows us to look at doing training in a way that doesn’t interfere with any of the residents,” Cust said. “We are far enough away from the homes at the east end.”
The project would develop through four stages over a three-year period.
Stage one is entering into the joint use agreement with the St. Albert Fire Department. Cust said he had a discussion Tuesday evening with Sturgeon County’s Public Services Manager, Troy Grant, who expressed interest in the County taking part in the project.
“I had some discussions with the County of Sturgeon regarding that, but they’d already put together at a level that they feel comfortable at with regard to a training site at Bon Accord,” Cust said. “I had a little discussion with Troy Grant earlier this evening and it would appear that they [the County] are interested again in being a part of this.”
The second stage will involve preparing the site for use, including fencing, installing a smoke house used for practice, and constructing a Morinville / St. Albert Live Training Structure.
The smoke house has already been acquired by the Morinville Fire Department. The training structure is to be obtained with St. Albert Fire Department grant monies.
Cust said the smoke house would allow firefighters to train in smoke-filled conditions similar to what they would encounter in the field. Likewise, the training building, estimated to be 600 to 700 square feet in size, would allow firefighters to replicate actual firefighting conditions, including the intensity of heat.
“The intent is to build it so that it looks like a little cottage,” he said. “It will be designed with double laminated Gyprock and concrete wall board on the exterior. The interior will be designed in such a way that we can set up equivalent to one or two fire pits. It will recreate the feeling of the heat rising.”
Local and provincial regulations stipulate only materials permitted for burning in residential fire pits will be allowed to be burned inside the training unit.
The third and fourth stages of the training facility will involve acquiring additional training props for the two structures as well as an evaluation of the temporary facility. Cust said the temporary facility will also have space for vehicle extrication training, a skill set that is used on a full third of the fire department’s calls.
Funding resources for the first two phases of the facility would include in kind volunteer labour, revenues from the Fire Department’s calendar sales as well as a reallocation of $1,500 in training monies left over in the 2012 budget.
Initial estimates to put a fire hydrant at the proposed training facility could add another $25,000 to the cost of the project. While water for training could be brought in on the department’s trucks, Cust said locating a hydrant at the east end of Morinville would have the additional benefit of allowing Morinville to refill their trucks when assisting Sturgeon County without the need to drive all the way into town to do so.
Council would need to approve some zoning changes to make the training facility fit with the community’s Land Use Bylaw. Those amendments could be brought to Council as early as Sept. 11.