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New fire, ambulance building a first in B.C.

A new $20.74-million fire hall with room for the B.C. Ambulance Service will be built in West Cambie, replacing the 55-year-old Bridgeport fire hall in 2017.  - Matthew Hoekstra
A new $20.74-million fire hall with room for the B.C. Ambulance Service will be built in West Cambie, replacing the 55-year-old Bridgeport fire hall in 2017.
— image credit: Matthew Hoekstra

Richmond's plan to combine fire-rescue and ambulance services in a single building in West Cambie is the first agreement its kind in B.C., the city said Thursday.

As first reported in The Richmond Review in April, the city and B.C. Emergency Health Services have agreed to build a joint fire hall and ambulance station in the redeveloping Alexandra neighbourhood.

The city officially announced a 20-year lease agreement this week.

Similar arrangements exist in some rural communities, but this is the first time in B.C. such a facility will be built in a major urban centre.

Scheduled to open in early 2017, the $20.74-million 26,000-square-foot building will be constructed at the southwest corner of Cambie and No. 4 roads on a 0.6-hectare (1.5-acre) site. The location backs onto Tomsett Elementary School and still requires rezoning from the land's residential designation.

The building will replace two aging facilities: Fire Hall No. 3 at 9100 Bridgeport Rd. and B.C. Ambulance Service's Station 250 on Sexsmith Road. Both are located one kilometre from the new site.

Richmond Fire-Rescue will use the new building as its principal training centre, and also locate its emergency vehicle technicians there. Co-locating the ambulance service will lead to "increased collaboration," the city says.

"This innovative approach will create opportunities for two of our most critical emergency response agencies to work more closely together, which will improve community safety," said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie in a news release. "It will also provide savings for taxpayers.”

Said Peter Thorpe, executive director of metro operations for B.C. Ambulance Service: "Having a purpose-built facility ensures the building accommodates the unique needs of emergency services so our crews can deliver excellent care to those in need."

The station will be built to LEED gold status, the third highest rating of four environmental certification levels set out in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design process.

In April the city issued a request for proposal seeking an architectural firm to design the building. But the city said the call was premature and the plan was subsequently withdrawn.

It came over a decade after city council first decided to rebuild the 55-year-old Fire Hall No. 3. That 2002 plan called for the new station to be rebuilt on its Bridgeport Road site. But after further study, it was abandoned.

New plans came along in 2008 with an eye on the Cambie Road site. But at the time it wasn't clear whether the B.C. Ambulance Service would join the fire station, and the proposal was withdrawn.

Fire Hall No. 3 is one of the last Richmond fire stations to be replaced or upgraded. The city has replaced fire halls in Hamilton, Sea Island and Steveston, and extensively renovated and seismically upgraded the hall in Shellmont.

The other fire hall due for replacement is Fire Hall No. 1 on Gilbert Road—Richmond Fire-Rescue's headquarters. Plans call for it to be rebuilt on site at a cost of $21.5 million.

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