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Neighbours concerned new Burnaby fire hall will displace family of black bears

Neighbours weren't consulted about a City of Burnaby plan to build a new fire station in a city-owned green belt currently shielding their neighbourhood from the Trans Mountain tank farm.

Burnaby’s plan to build a new fire hall just west of the Trans Mountain tank farm was unwelcome news to neighbours who are worried about a loss of green space and the possible impact on bears living in the area. 

The city announced in early October that Fire Station 4, which has stood at 2326 Duthie Ave. since 1956, would be rebuilt on an undeveloped piece of city-owned green space off Greystone Drive east of Pinehurst Drive.

With the new station projected to be operational by the end of 2023, construction is expected to begin in a matter of weeks.

“For us, it’s terrible news,” said Jenny Reznik who moved to the area with her family in the summer from East Vancouver

 “It’s very quiet and very foresty and very green,” she said of her new neighbourhood, “and suddenly we have these huge constructions with the pipeline and now another construction is going to be very close to our house. It’s really a major change.”

Reznik said the city should have consulted with residents.

“Nobody told us about it,” she said.

Neighbour Natalia Samartseva, who has started a petition opposing the city’s choice of location for the fire hall, agreed.

“I would have started much earlier if I knew this information, but it was just news to me last week or so,” she said.

With the loss of the green space, Samartseva is worried about the fate of black bears that she said live in the area.

“Every year there is a mama bear and baby bears,” she said. “They always come out of the bushes in one spot, and, again, this is exactly where the fire hall will be located.”

City communications manager Chris Bryan confirmed neighbours were not consulted or even informed about the project until early October, when the city sent out a news release and set up a project page on its website.

In an email to the NOW, Bryan said city staff had picked the Greystone site “after reviewing the impacts and benefits of multiple locations.”

“Our goal was to find a site which allowed crews to reach the entire service area with suitable response times, while ensuring minimal disruption to the neighbourhood and environmental area,” Bryan said.

He noted the parcel of undeveloped city-owned land where the fire station will be built is “quite large,” and the fire station, driveway and landscaping will take up a “very small portion” – less than one-tenth – of the entire property.

“The remaining portion of the parcel will remain in its natural state, which minimizes any potential disruption of wildlife habitat on site,” Bryan said.

He said the city conducted a full environmental assessment as well as tree and nesting surveys for the project.

The NOW has request access to those reports, but is still waiting for a response.

Bryan said the Greystone fire station – located just outside the Trans Mountain tank farm fence – is a “priority” for the city “as it relates to public safety in a neighbourhood where industry has created a different safety profile than in the past.”

So far, however, some neighbours in the area aren’t satisfied.

“The forest is hiding all the disturbance already done to the Burnaby Mountain – leave it alone,” states their petition.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
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