Frequently Asked Questions

Answers

  1. Why does Courtenay need a second fire Hall in East Courtenay?

    Courtenay’s population has doubled over the past 20 years, with most growth occurring in East Courtenay. Fire department responses in the City are fairly evenly split between East and West Courtenay.

    Commercial construction in East Courtenay built in the last 20 years includes North Island College, Home Depot, Costco, and Thrifty Foods. A new $334 million hospital is being built in East Courtenay, opening in 2017.  East Courtenay represents a significant part of Courtenay’s economy; the assessed value of property and improvements is over $287 million higher in East Courtenay than West Courtenay. Meanwhile, residential development in East, West and South Courtenay is expected to continue to grow.

    A second fire hall will enable the Courtenay Volunteer Fire Department to respond more quickly to calls on the east side of the river and ensure they are less vulnerable to delays that are out of their control, such as those caused by traffic or even bridge closures. It will also expand the department’s volunteer recruiting base. 

    Two separate, independent third-party reports have concluded that a second fire hall in East Courtenay is needed, along with a training ground tailored to Courtenay’s specific community needs. 

  2. Where will the new fire hall and training facility be located?

    The City owns a 3.359 acre property at 220 Waters Place, off Lerwick Road (Veteran's Memorial Parkway). The property is behind the BC Hydro substation. The City purchased this property in 2005 for the future location of a second fire hall. 

    Map

  3. How will a second fire hall affect response times?

    Traffic crossing both the 5th and 17th Street bridges has increased, lengthening the response time for fire and emergency calls. Right now, if one or both of Courtenay’s bridges were closed for maintenance, an accident, flooding, or earthquake, not only would the fire department have difficulty reaching East Courtenay, but the fire department volunteers would have a hard time getting to the fire hall in the first place. A second fire hall will greatly improve the volunteers' and the Courtenay Fire Department’s ability to respond to fire and emergency calls on both sides of the river within target response times. 

  4. Why is it important to meet target response times?

    Responding quickly to fire and emergency calls is of course important; those requesting emergency assistance need help to arrive as soon as possible. But there are other issues to consider that have broader implications for the community.

    From the Firewise Consulting Report [PDF - 1.3 MB]: "Where the response time, measured according to the parameters in BC Building Code exceeds 10 minutes in 10% or more of the calls to the building location, requirements related to separation between structures and permitted window openings may be affected along with other design restrictions." Some areas of East Courtenay are at risk of not meeting this target response time. A second fire hall will prevent stricter building code regulations from being enacted in these areas.

    In addition, a new fire hall in East Courtenay could be an opportunity for insurance rate premium reductions based on response distances for businesses and for some residents located in East Courtenay.

  5. How much will the new facility cost?

    Staff have been monitoring similar fire hall and training ground projects underway in View Royal, Central Saanich, and most recently East Sooke. Based on the costs experienced by those communities, the estimated cost for the Courtenay facility is approximately $5.7 million. This is substantially lower than the original 2012 cost estimate.

    Cost estimate breakdown:

    • Site preparation: $1,511,000
    • Training ground: $966,000
    • Firehall: $3,215,000

    The new facility will be a basic volunteer-based fire hall, designed to operate as a satellite facility to the main fire hall on Cumberland Road.

    An initial concept design was prepared in 2012 which included space in the facility for other organizations. The project scope has now been reduced to a simple fire hall housing only the Courtenay Volunteer Fire Department. Further design work will take place to ensure the final design is correct, and costs are minimized.

  6. How would this affect my property taxes?

    Assuming the City borrowed 100 percent of the total funds required, the property tax impact would be approximately $23 for an average residential property. However, this could be offset entirely through other debt repayments that are coming to an end in 2015, resulting in a net zero increase to property taxes. 

  7. Could Courtenay rely on the Comox Fire Department to respond to calls in East Courtenay?

    Both the Fire Underwriters Survey [PDF - 3.6 MB] and the Firewise Consulting Report [PDF - 1.3 MB] recommend that Courtenay construct its own fire hall in East Courtenay, rather than rely on the Town of Comox for assistance. The Comox Fire Department is sized, equipped and located for their community.

    In addition, in the event of an earthquake, “it is possible both access bridges over the river between east and west Courtenay could be compromised and your mutual aid partners will likely be overwhelmed by demands for service in their own immediate jurisdictions.” (Firewise Consulting Report p.5).

  8. Why does Courtenay need a training facility?

    Simulated real-scenario training is important to prepare firefighters for fire and emergency response. This means providing situations and environments that replicate the conditions a firefighter could expect when responding to fire and emergency calls. The difference is, these conditions would be in a controlled and safe environment.

    An example would be a fire simulation building with movable partition walls to create new and unexpected environments, similar to what would be found in real life in the City of Courtenay. This could include hotel, motel and apartment fire training. Most current training opportunities in the Comox Valley are skills-based, not scenario-based.

    Training technology has made significant advances in the last 20 years. Natural gas simulation and artificial smoke, which will be used in the East Courtenay training grounds, provide a safe, realistic environment. At the same time, they minimize the impact on neighbouring properties, the environment, and the health of firefighters.

    The Firewise Consulting report also recommends that the Courtenay Fire Department develop a practical fire officer training program which complements the Comox Fire Training Centre firefighter training programs. As explained in the report, “fire events are high risk, low frequency, time compressed in nature with little time to think things through.” A scenario-based training ground will allow simulated, controlled events using stressful situations, multiple engines and ladder companies, to ensure officers and volunteers are prepared when responding to real life emergencies

  9. What is simulated real-scenario training?

    Simulated real-scenario training is important to prepare firefighters for fire and emergency response. This means providing situations and environments that replicate the conditions a firefighter could expect when responding to fire and emergency calls. The difference is, these conditions would be in a controlled and safe environment.

    An example would be a fire simulation building with movable partition walls to create new and unexpected environments, similar to what would be found in real life in the City of Courtenay. This could include hotel, motel and apartment fire training. Most current training opportunities in the Comox Valley are skills-based, not scenario-based.

    Training technology has made significant advances in the last 20 years. Natural gas simulation provides a safe, realistic environment that minimizes the impact on neighbouring properties, the environment, and on the health of firefighters.

  10. What about the Comox Training Centre?

    The Courtenay Fire Department will continue to use the Comox Training Centre for “live fire” training after the Courtenay facility is built, as do many other communities with their own training facilities. The new training ground in East Courtenay would complement the Comox Training Centre, offering training tools not available at the Comox facility.

    Both the Fire Underwriters Survey [PDF - 3.6 MB] and the Firewise Consulting  Report [PDF - 1.3 MB] concluded that Courtenay needed its own training facility. A training facility would allow greater control over variables such as costs, scheduling, risk management, and unique training opportunities, as well as provide Courtenay volunteer firefighters with training that is specific to the City’s major fire and emergency risks.