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Dec. 6, 2019 | Friday
Local News
Problems plague Queenston fire station
The Queenston fire station. (Jer Houghton/Niagara Now)

The Queenston fire station has a long list of problems but the building is not yet in need of replacement, says NOTL Fire Chief Rob Grimwood.

Among the problems are a number of structural issues, including poor sub-terrain which will continue to cause damage unless costly repairs are done.

The purpose of a report by Grimwood on the station dating back to 1971 is to give town council all of the information necessary to make a decision regarding future plans for the building, he said.

As part of his orientation for the new council, Grimwood suggested he would seek direction on how to proceed during this term.

“There is not the suggestion that a replacement is necessary at this time, simply that it should be included in the 10-year forecast so that the capital reserve funding is accurately calculated to include this project,” he said in an email in response to a resident’s query.

The Queenston station is facing a number of structural problems because it was “poorly built” in 1977, Grimwood said.

“The builder went out of business shortly thereafter leaving no resolve for the town to pursue them for the structural issues.”

The fire hall has since experienced significant structural cracking and shifting, he said, and has been “evaluated numerous times by structural engineers who indicate only extremely costly repairs will permanently correct the situation.”

The problem is a serious sub-terrain issue, he said, which was discovered this summer when a “large sinkhole opened up within the parking lot.”

He said the land the station is built on is contributing to its structural shifting and will continue to cause the same sinkholes due to the weight of parked vehicles.

The building is also experiencing structural degradation on the exterior wall adjacent to the parking lot.

Grimwood’s email was a response to a resident who  wondered why the station would be nearing the end of its lifespan at such a young age, when many local residents live in houses that are much older.

“A public safety building is significantly different than a residential building,” Grimwood explained.

“The building code requires all public safety buildings (which include fire stations) to be built to what is known as a ‘post disaster building’ standard. This building was not constructed to those standards in 1977 as it pre-dated that building code section coming into effect. As a result the current building has many operational limitations.”

“The 50-year design is common amongst public safety buildings and then the condition and operational effectiveness of the building is evaluated as the 50 year mark approaches.

“A decision is made to either replace, put money into the current station or deferring the replacement altogether.”

The current station was built when fire trucks were much smaller, he said, and “modern trucks barely fit in the station.”

“The station was not designed with any operational consideration to the firefighters’ bunker gear. Whereas the stations in the Old Town, Virgil and Glendale have proper storage for the bunker gear that meets the requirements related to the decontamination of the gear post-fire, the gear in Queenston and St. Davids is stored on portable racks on the garage floors.”

The decontamination of firefighters’ equipment is heavily regulated, he said.

“There is no bunker gear cleaning equipment in the Queenston or St. Davids fire stations due to lack of space and their gear must be transported to another station to be cleaned, which leaves those firefighters without protective equipment (and out of service to respond to subsequent calls) until the gear is cleaned and transported back.

With no space for an office, the officers “operate from a desk in a hallway.”

“This makes managing call reports (guided under the protection of privacy legislation as some contain personal health information) challenging,” he said.

With no back-up power, in the event of a power outage a portable generator needs to be transported to the station to ensure it can function.

“I can assure you that the tenants do not abuse the building and that it is not a question of fashion.”

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Problems facing the Queenston fire station:

* Modern fire trucks barely fit inside the fire station because they are much larger than when the building was constructed more than 40 years ago.

* The station has no back-up power and a portable generator needs to be brought in when the power goes out.

* Terrain issues have and will continue to cause sinkholes in the parking lot under the weight of vehicles.

* There is no office space on site and officials work at a desk in a hallway.

* Space for cleaning and storing firefighters’ gear is inadequate.

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