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Quesnel Fire Department gets firehall back

Firehall No. 1, under renovation for months, is now ready for action
Mayor Ron Paull holds the jaws of life machine to cut the ribbon on the new Quesnel Fire Department’s downtown firehall with fire chief Ron Richert (red jacket, right) aiding and councillors Tony Goulet, Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, Debra McKelvie and Mitch Vik (L to R) on hand. (Karen Powell photo) Quesnel Fire Department (Frank Peebles photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

It’s the old firehall, but it’s the new firehall.

After months of operating out of makeshift conditions in the City Works compound, the Quesnel Fire Department (QFD) has moved back into the completely renovated Firehall No. 1 downtown.

“It’s the previous structure, but obviously a lot of improvements,” said fire chief Ron Richert, who welcomed a contingent of City staff and councillors to tour the facility. “It’s not only safer, but more user-friendly for us. Love it. It was a good, well-deserved upgrade.”

The last renovation was in 1986, with the one prior to that in 1970, and the original building put there in 1950. The Nazko Nation’s administration offices are now in what was the original structure, with the current firehall in a 1950s-era addition that kept growing.

Richert listed some of the key improvements:

• Structural upgrades and seismic stability reinforcement

• Wider bay doors for safer egress of fire apparatus

• Fire apparatus exhaust removal system

• Proper shower and washroom facilities

• Proper firefighter gear room

• Plumbing, mechanical and electrical upgrades

• Back-up generator system

• Accessibility improvements for public/wheelchair accessible

• Sprinkler system upgrades in fire apparatus bays

• Better security systems for entering the building

Richert is most excited about the larger firetruck doors, the male-female shower and changing areas (many more women are now firefighters compared to 1986), and the vital safety added right in the main space where the firetrucks are parked. In what used to be one jam-packed shared room, there are now space divisions between people and machines. Responders who are concentrating on readiness in the throes of attending an emergency used to do so amongst huge vehicles that sometimes moved.

Now there are locker rooms for storing their gear, organizing their gear, and getting in/out of their gear without worrying about their surroundings.

Also, those vehicles used to spew exhaust straight into the air being breathed by those firefighters and now a simple but effective attachment has been added for each vehicle that clamps onto each exhaust pipe and sucks the fumes safely away. Those attachments are tailor designed to break away from moving firetrucks as they roll out the doors.

Richert said it is not unprecedented, even in this area in modern times, for a firehall to be the ironic scene of a fire. A modern new internal sprinkler system will greatly reduce that risk for QFD Firehall No. 1.

“You can’t lose a building like this,” he said.

The renovations took about three months longer than anticipated, but Richert said the construction delays were nothing more than usual hurdles being experienced in the post-pandemic period. As far as he is concerned, along with the three other career firefighters on QFD staff, the 34 volunteers in the current contingent of this composite fire department, and the resident Quesnel Volunteer Firefighters Association, it is a welcome new atmosphere in their longstanding building.

“We knew we needed to do something, either a new facility or major renovations to this one, and we got a federal grant for an upgrade so that was a pretty big deal for us, so we were able to take that $2.5-million to cover a big portion of the costs,” said Richert.

The public will get a chance to take a tour sometime in spring 2024.

READ MORE: Quesnel Fire Department welcomes new rescue truck

READ MORE: New firetruck caps off Bouchie Lake VFD year

QFD Firehall No. 1 has new locker rooms separated from the firetruck garage. (Frank Peebles photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
An emission diversion system sucks firetruck exhaust away from the firefighters and other staff who have to be in the vehicle bays. (Frank Peebles photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
The 400-pound fire bell from 1911 once clanged from a tower on Carson Avenue and is now a central symbolic artifact inside Quesnel Firehall No. 1. (Frank Peebles photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel Fire Department’s volunteer firefighter association also calls Firehall No. 1 home. The department has been operational since 1910. (Frank Peebles photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel Fire Department’s Firehall No. 1 at 310 Kinchant Street. (Frank Peebles photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

Frank Peebles

About the Author: Frank Peebles

I started my career with Black Press Media fresh out of BCIT in 1994, as part of the startup of the Prince George Free Press, then editor of the Lakes District News.
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