City breaks ground on $4.7-million facility
Representatives from the City of Merritt, the B.C. government and local firefighting factions officially broke ground on a new $4.7 million firefighting facility on Monday.
The new 14,300-square-foot wildfire management base on Airport Road is expected to be completed in April, just in time for the next wildfire season.
“We identified all our facilities that we need to make some investments in, and this one rose to the surface as a top priority,” Steve Schell, Kamloops Fire Centre manager said. “We’re going to have a fire zone operation working out of a building located right beside an airport. That will allow us to expand our operations if we need to in the summer months, where if we need to bring in more helicopters, we have room to do that and if we need to bring in more crew, they have a place to land nearby.”
B.C.’s Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson said the project is funded entirely by the provincial government. The facility will hold classrooms for ongoing training, up to 57 staff members, equipment and a full-sized gym for training around 150 new recruits every year. The province has a long-term lease on the land with the city.
“First, it creates some local jobs during construction, so it’s a good economic boost for the community,” he said. “Secondly, being able to have the training centre here for the boot camp, that’s of great economic benefit.”
Thomson also thanked members of the First Nations surrounding Merritt for their support of the project.
“The focus is on protecting communities throughout the province, including First Nations communities, because those communities to a great degree are at the interface. It will allow us to continue that level of protection to all of our communities,” he said.
Nicola Knights Unit Crew Supervisor Patrick Andrew said the facility is a big upgrade from the trailers he and his crew have been staying in since he became a firefighter in 1991.
“It’s going to be an awesome centre for our training and our troops,” he said.
About 60 people attended the ceremony.