Group demands new fire hall, evacuation route on Burnaby Mountain

Chris Campbell

A town hall set for this Wednesday for people who live and work on Burnaby Mountain is set to cover a lot of ground about the lack of emergency services in this community.

The event is being hosted by UniverCity Community Association on May 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the University Highlands Elementary School gym.

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Mayor Mike Hurley and City of Burnaby staff will be on hand to listen to people’s concerns about safety on the mountain, especially in relation to the Trans Mountain tank farm and the proposed pipeline expansion project.

One group that will be especially vocal is BROKE (Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion), which passed a heavy resolution on April 30.

Some of the things BROKE is asking for is an “alternate evacuation route” off of Burnaby Mountain. Right now, it’s unclear if anyone, from SFU to the city to the provincial government, has an evacuation plan for the mountain. It seems like there isn’t one, which seems utterly ridiculous for a community this large.

Aside from the thousands of SFU students and staff, there are new workers at all of the businesses that have opened up at the UniverCity development.

The community (I live there too) has 6,500 residents, by the latest estimate, with another 4,000 expected by 2021.

BROKE is also demanding a Burnaby Mountain fire station – yes, the city doesn’t have one – again, a ridiculous situation. If you want to know more about the lack of a fire hall, read this deep dive by NOW reporter Cornelia Naylor from last year – it’s an eye-opener.

Hurley, for his part, seems deeply concerned about all of this considering his background with the Burnaby Fire Department. He’s told me several times that he has staff working these issues, which seem to have been ignored by the previous city administration.

Source: Cornelia Naylor

Hurley sent a letter to BROKE about the actions he is taking, which include meeting with Trans Mountain staff.

“I, along with council, share the concerns relating to public safety and environmental risks posed by Trans Mountain’s current operation and proposed expansion,” he wrote. “With respect to the current operations, I want to inform you that staffs are in the process of scheduling a meeting with Trans Mountain Corporation staff to review the safety upgrades Trans Mountain has identified to have undertaken at their Burnaby Terminal facility …I also want to bring to your attention that staff are currently undertaking public safety plan and fire services plan reviews with input from resident and stakeholders. The outcomes of these processes will inform Council on how public safety is going to be addressed comprehensively across the City. I am expecting these reviews to inform Council on the best way to address fire safety and where necessary, evacuation of residents and students from SFU/UniverCity from a fire related event at the Trans Mountain Terminals in Burnaby.”

I will be at Wednesday’s meeting to see if there is more information, but according to this letter from Hurley, action is in the works and it will take more time.

My thanks to Karl Perrin from BROKE for sending me their letter demanding changes.

Here is more on the resolution:

“BROKE requests the City of Burnaby:

i.     To advocate for the removal of the existing tanks, as well as advocate for the prevention of the construction of 14 new tanks at the Burnaby Terminal.Or as a last resort should the Burnaby Terminal 'toxic and flammable material storage facility' actually remain or be expanded:

(BROKE requests the City of Burnaby…)

ii. To build a fire station above the intersection of Burnaby Mt. Parkway and Gaglardi Way, since that intersection would be closed during a fire at the Burnaby Terminal, making SFU and UniverCity evacuation impossible;

iii. To create an alternate evacuation route off of Burnaby Mt. for the 30,000 people trapped above the intersection;

iv. To develop an emergency response plan for the 30,000 people required to shelter in place if an earthquake led to a multiple tank fire, a boil over, or a forest fire.”

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