Council Comment: Fire hall upgrades needed to keep Creston firefighters safe

Current Creston Fire Rescue hall not big enough for modern trucks or appropriate decontamination, says Creston Coun. Jim Elford...

Jim Elford is a first-term councillor for the Town of Creston.

Jim Elford is a first-term councillor for the Town of Creston.

This is my first opportunity to thank the people of Creston for their support at the polls last November. The past five months on council have been a sharp learning curve, especially for someone who has been out of school for over 40 years!

In the 1998 Creston Valley Restructure study, one of the recommendations was for a valley wide fire service. As someone said, every tree in B.C. is provided fire protection by the forest service but we can’t say the same for every home. The three valley fire departments are now working together with automatic aid. Creston Fire Rescue is also responding to the West Creston area, in addition to Erickson and the other areas it covesr under contract. We are approaching service to nearly every home in our valley.

One of the items that we have recently been made aware of is the need for a new fire hall. In the early 1980s, Overwaitea Foods moved to its current location at the mall. This made its former store, which was built sometime in the 1950s, available. Renovations were done and the Creston fire department moved into the converted supermarket in 1981. A study was recently undertaken of the fire hall to investigate the viability of some necessary renovations. A number of structural deficiencies in the building were brought to light. There were no original engineered drawings when the store was renovated to a fire hall. The only drawings are a one-page pencil sketch done by the contractor.

What has changed in the past 30 years that make the current hall inadequate? Fire trucks have grown much larger. A 1980 fire truck would seem very small in comparison to the large diesel powered trucks of today. The height of the current hall limits the size and type of apparatus available to the fire service, as well.

In the past 30 years, the Creston fire department has expanded its services to the public. It now responds to road rescue (Jaws of Life), medical first response, high angle rope rescue and environmental response, to name a few. These extra services have necessitated additional equipment, larger vehicles and have caused the department to literally outgrow its space.

We also now have the work experience program, where five firefighters are spending a year training in Creston. These people live in the fire hall and offer immediate response for our town and area.

The dangers and risks our firefighters incur have changed, as well. Years ago, the products of combustion consisted primarily of carbon and carbon monoxide. Today, the combustion of plastics and synthetic materials produce smoke contaminated with cyanide, PCBs and various dioxins, along with other substances. Dioxin is a known human carcinogen and the most potent synthetic carcinogen ever tested in laboratory animals. Our firefighters need facilities to decontaminate from these dangerous compounds and the current building lacks the space and facilities. It is a WorkSafeBC requirement that we provide showers for decontamination. Equipment and personal protective gear must also be cleaned and appropriate facilities need to be in place.

The exhaust from the vehicles should be contained and not allowed to infiltrate the rest of the building which isn’t the case, currently

The Workers Compensation Act now recognizes nine forms of cancer that can be classed as occupational diseases for firefighters. We as a community have a duty to these volunteers to protect them from these hazards as much as possible. Sadly, two of our former firefighters have, in recent years, been victims of these occupational cancers.

Our converted fire hall has served us well for nearly 35 years, but the building no longer has the space or structure to house the equipment and facilities needed. It is probably time that we start consideration and discussion regarding replacement of this facility.

Jim Elford is in his first term on Creston town council. Council Comment is a monthly column by Creston councillors.


Creston Valley Advance