After five years of heated opposition from the Rossdale community league, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services will reopen an old station in the neighbourhood.
"It's a relief," fire Chief Ken Block said in an interview. "This was the right thing to do and it's nice that we can move forward with some certainty and get things going."
On Friday, Alberta's Court of Appeal dismissed an application from the community league to appeal a 2013 decision to revive the station.
Tucked at the end of a residential street south of the Edmonton Ballpark (formerly Telus Field), Fire Station No. 21 has been vacant since the 1990s.
The Rossdale community league objected to the station being reopened over concerns about noise, traffic and development in the river valley. The community league hall is about 500 metres up the street from the station.
"This is a major facility that's being located in the river valley and I think people should be a little bit concerned about that," said the league's president, Lynn Parish.
"I know it's hard when it's something like a fire station, but I think we have to ask ourselves, 'Is it essential that that fire station be located there?' "
Parish acknowledged the station is well-situated for a river-rescue team, but said she believes residents on the street will suffer if their narrow road becomes a freeway for fire trucks.
Nevertheless, Parish said the community league will respect the court's decision to dismiss the application for appeal.
"We have the decision that we have to live by," she said. "We'll go forward on that basis."
'A good day for fire rescue'
A river-rescue crew already stores its boat at the otherwise empty station, but has to travel from Mill Creek to retrieve it during emergencies. Block said the trip adds about 10 minutes to the team's rescue time.
"This will put a river-rescue crew right there at Rossdale Station No. 21, right at river's edge," he said.
A fire crew based in Rossdale would also alleviate the pressure on other downtown stations, Block added.
"It's a good day for Fire Rescue [Services] and for the citizens of Edmonton."
'We're good neighbours'
Block plans to have a permanent crew, including a river-rescue team, at the station by early 2018. He said appeals by Rossdale's community league have unnecessarily delayed the project.
"It's cost us time and it's cost us money," he said, though he declined to specify the cost. "We're looking forward to getting on with the project."
The projected cost for reopening the fire hall was $5 million in 2012 — considerably less than building a new station elsewhere.
There are currently 30 fire stations in communities throughout the city. The reopened Rossdale station will become the 31st, once equipment is updated and the building is renovated.
"We're a long-term neighbour and we're good neighbours," Block said. "We really look forward to serving the citizens of Rossdale and we take those community relationships really seriously."
Block plans to meet next week with others involved in the project to talk about next steps.