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Town looks to future with $2-million fire hall

by David Meyer

HILLSBURGH - When it came to building a new fire hall in this community, the Erin Fire Department wanted to do it right.

The result was a lot of work from the inception of the idea to the groundbreaking ceremony on Monday beside the old fire hall.

Fire Chief Dan Callaghan said in an interview the new building will meet all the current National Fire Protection Standards. There will be room for five trucks and there will also be room for an ambulance bay and for an ambulance office - a subject close to the hearts of many in the town.

“We considered that in the process - to make room for an ambulance,” said Callaghan.

He said he is hoping the building will open next June or July, and will cost about $2 million when completed. There are 30 volunteers working out of the Hillsburgh station.

Callaghan said the process began in 2002 and a number of sites were considered, but, “We brought it back to this location ... This was considered the best site for volunteer response,” he said.

Erin councillor John Brennan was on the fire committee and he saluted Steve Ballantyne for his work with the building.

Brennan said Ballantyne went to a seminar in the United States in order to learn what is best when building new fire halls, and what to avoid.

As for the site, Brennan agreed with the chief. “It always came back to this was the best location for responders. It’s a modern building that will last a long, long time.”

Ballantyne said he attended a course in North Carolina that is well known and attracts fire fighters from around the world when they need a new fire hall.

He did more than just that. Ballantyne said he visited “probably 30 fire halls since we started this project. We used the good ideas and avoided the bad ones.”

When asked if Erin has been consulted by other departments about what he learned, he said, “No one has asked,” but added he would be happy to help when someone is planning a new fire hall.

He did noted that the Ontario Fire Marshall has indicated he wants to see the finished product next year.

Brennan added that the town will offer an invitation to anyone who wants to see what is finally constructed.

The fire hall will have five bays. Building will start at the west side of the current fire hall, and when it reaches a point where some bays are completed, workers will demolish the current bays and move the trucks to the new sections.

Then, they will continue with the new hall until everything is done.

The final touches will be the offices, and 3,500 of extra space.

Ballantyne said the use for that space has not yet been set, but if the community needs it in coming years, it is not that expensive to build now as part of the building, but could cost up to $500,000 five years from now if a community hall is suddenly needed.

He said one of the things he learned at the seminar was to consider future needs and uses. He added that the town also took environmental issues into consideration.

The building will be constructed so it can hold heavy solar panels if the town finds them to be worthwhile.

There is a high pressure well to the northwest of the current building, with a covering that makes it look like a red dog house.

It will be completely inside the new buildings, and  Ballantyne said trucks will be able to pull up to it and fill up with water while indoors.

Ballantyne led the building committee for the final five years of the process. He was joined by the fire chief, the mayor, and Brennan.

Mayor Lou Maieron said in an interview “I think it’s a well due project. We’re close to budget.” He added, “I hope we don’t encounter an unknown variable.”

Maieron added that Callaghan and the fire department “worked hard and should be credited with doing the lion’s share of the work. It’s a terrific fire hall.”

The town is borrowing the money to pay for the new building.


September 23, 2011


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