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Burnaby councillor urges staff to speed up timeline for SFU fire hall construction

$1 million for feasibility study and phase1 design approved

Burnaby city council has authorized $1 million for a feasibility study and phase 1 design for a new fire hall on Burnaby Mountain at SFU.

The need for a fire hall at Simon Fraser University was identified in a Burnaby Fire Department needs assessment study published at the beginning of 2020, according to a report to council Monday from the city’s financial management committee.

“The study identified that response coverage to Burnaby Mountain is inadequate and poses a risk for the community on Burnaby Mountain,” states the report. “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 city and SFU have agreed on Discovery Park at the corner of Tower Road and University Drive as the possible site for the new fire hall.

The project would take up about half the park, according to a map included in the report.

Since a site has been chosen and the lack of a fire hall has been identified as a risk, Coun. Sav Dhaliwal asked staff whether the timeline – which doesn’t call for construction to begin until spring 2024 – could be moved up.

He noted the needs assessment published last year found response times to the mountain were inadequate.

“There is some urgency to it,” he said.

Dhaliwal said council has “moved pretty quickly on this one.”

But last year’s needs assessment wasn’t the first time some current councillors had heard about inadequate response times to the mountain.

In 2015, a fire department response analysis flagged the issue and stated the area presented “high risks” because of “university and residential occupancy.”

It found the fire department was failing to meet industry standard response times to the top of the mountain 98% of the time.

And council was made aware of the need for a fire station at SFU more than a decade before that, in a 2002 fire department future needs study.

In 2010, the city’s finance and civic development committee recommended council authorize staff to update the 2002 plan, which included calls for an SFU fire hall, and move it forward, but council voted to send that recommendation back to the committee, from whence it did not reappear.

Dhaliwal and councillors Dan Johnston, Pietro Calendino and Colleen Jordan have all been on council since at least 2002.

And James Wang, who was elected in 2014, was on council when inadequate response times were flagged in the fire department’s response analysis.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor