Tofino’s Fire Hall isn’t in good enough shape to be taken seriously as a post-disaster Emergency Operations Centre and replacing it might be more cost-effective than repairing it.
In a report submitted to council lon March 15, Tofino’s Manager of Public Works Ricardo Araya wrote that the current hall is not seismically sound. He added “it is unlikely the building can perform as a fire hall after a disaster,” and that “seismic upgrades to the existing building would be expensive.”
He said a specific cost to upgrade the hall would need to be mapped out, but suggested, “A seismic upgrade is anywhere from half the building value to over the current building value.”
Araya’s report was backed up by a structural review of the hall by Herold Engineering, which determined the building is in good enough shape to be useful, just not in, or after, an emergency.
“Although the main fire hall building is in overall good structural condition for its age, it will not likely perform to post-disaster requirements,” the report states citing structural integrity concerns. “Given the age of the building, it would not have been specifically designed to resist seismic loading.”
The fire halls’ main building was built in the 1940’s and was relocated from Radar Hill to its current spot in the centre of Tofino.
Coun. Dorothy Baert said she’d rather see the district pursue a new fire hall than continue to pour money into the current one.
“We have put a fair amount of money into the fire hall and the question every time it comes up is, ‘Why are we doing this? Why aren’t we building a new firehall?,” she said.
“It sounds like the building itself is kind of useful and could be used for other purposes, as long as it’s not a fire hall and emergency purposes. I’m wondering if there’s, for council, some worth in trying to find out what a new fire hall would actually cost us and start having that discussion.”
Mayor Josie Osborne doubted the district was ready for such a discussion.
“We’ve been discussing a lot of different future needs,” she said.
“We’ve been discussing the fate of [Tofino’s municipal hall] and the lack of office space, we’ve been discussing arts and culture, a library, a gym, we have a number of facilities that are in consideration.”
She said she wasn’t willing to move in any immediate direction, but added Araya’s report, which included information on the municipal hall and community hall, helped highlight priorities.
“This is an important piece of information, I think, to bring into our thinking about where our priorities lie,” she said. “It does influence my thinking when I think about what the community’s needs are and where we are best positioned to spend money that we don’t have right now on any building.”
Coun. Al Anderson suggested a piecemeal approach to infrastructure would be a wrong turn and suggested a complete strategic plan would be needed to map out the district’s building priorities over the next 10-15 years before any big moves are made.
“I certainly wasn’t prepared to decide to have a new firehall today,” he said.
Coun. Greg Blanchette agreed with Baert’s view that replacing would be more prudent than upgrading and suggested putting a new fire hall on council’s list for immediate consideration
“It’s pressing,” he said. “A new fire hall and a new location for the fire hall is something to be put on the front burner.”