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Loon Lake residents celebrate grand opening of new fire hall

New hall, in a new location, replaces structure destroyed in the 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

More than 120 people gathered in Loon Lake on Saturday, June 8 to celebrate an event that has been a long time coming: the grand opening of the community's new fire hall.

Located on part of the former BC Provincial Park site at the centre of the lake (2501 Loon Lake Road), the new hall replaces the former structure at 1701 Loon Lake Road, which was destroyed in the 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire.

Since then, the Loon Lake Volunteer Fire Department (LLVFD) has housed its apparatus, and operated from, a two-bay annex that was constructed by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) on the foundation of the former fire hall. The space is leased from the Loon Lake Community Recreational and Agricultural Society, and the TNRD — which oversees the LLVFD — hopes to continue with the agreement and use the annex as Fire Hall No. 2, which will enable the department to provide fire protection service to more properties.

"This is a great day for Loon Lake residents and for our fire department," said Fire Chief Daryl Hart at the opening. He noted that the department was able to move into the new fire hall on Oct. 21, 2023, some 2,290 days after the old hall was destroyed on July 14, 2017.

"With the opening of this new hall, 179 properties with an assessed value of $77,831,600 now qualify as having fire protection status, the result being significant savings in fire insurance premiums for those property owners.

"Response travel time to these properties has now been significantly reduced. We now save 9.5 minutes of travel time when responding from Hall No. 1. To put this into perspective, fire doubles in size roughly every 30 seconds."

Hart acknowledged that the department has overcome many obstacles since the loss of the fire hall in 2017 and the move to the annex.

"We’ve utilized bottled water, porta-potties, and had cold lunches during monthly, day-long training sessions. On colder winter days we could not train, as we would risk damage to trucks from freezing.

“I would like to personally thank all the Loon Lake Fire Department members for being stoic and committed in meeting these challenges. They are the true heroes of our fire department.”

The new hall is 4,656 square feet over two storeys. The main floor has three bays that can house three pieces of apparatus, as well as a meeting room, a designated gear room, a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) with a compressor to fill oxygen cylinders, washrooms, and showers. The second floor contains an administration and training office, along with a large training office with a full kitchen.

The City of Port Moody and the Port Moody Fire Department recently donated a surplus 1999 American LaFrance fire engine to the LLVFD, which also has a bush truck, a tender (Type 2 tactical), and a Type 6 engine. The last two pieces of equipment have been added to the BC Wildfire Service inventory for deployment during this year's fire season.

"As Loon Lake was hit by the Elephant Hill wildfire in 2017, we all remember how other fire departments answered the call for help," said Hart. "We can now reciprocate and help other communities in the province that are hit by wildfire." He added that the LLVFD is in the process of building a Type 2 structure protection trailer, which will give added structure protection with pumps and sprinklers. This unit is expected to be ready for deployment for the 2025 fire season.

The chief was one of several speakers who acknowledged the generous donations of many in rebuilding the hall. In January 2019, Fraserway RV's Adventurer Foundation donated $275,000 to help replace the Loon Lake fire hall, and Loon Lake resident Faye Morrison had an inspiration to use bottle returns to help offset the cost of borrowing to build the hall. To date, the "10 cent at a time" campaign has raised $27,000, and Hart said that it will continue to raise funds for other fire department programs and bursaries.

Also thanked were former TNRD Area "E" director Sally Watson and current Area "E" director Jim Smith; the general contractor for the project, West Alliance Construction; and TNRD staff, including Jason Tomlin, the manager of fire protection, capital projects manager Ian Dalgleish, and general manager of operations Jamie Vieira.

"And of course our fire department family: the members and supporters who tirelessly step up and support us," said Hart. "Brenda, Shannon, and Franko [Borri] and family for making sure we are well-nourished for our training, [and] Chris Watt, Denice Hart, and Victoria Aussem for stepping up to support Faye and the fire department.

"This hall will serve the community of Loon Lake for many years to come."

Barbara Roden

About the Author: Barbara Roden

I joined Black Press in 2012 working the Circulation desk of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal and edited the paper during the summers until February 2016.
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