Edmonton needs 4 new fire halls, 4 upgraded stations to hit response targets, city says

Edmonton plans to add four new fire halls to its existing 30 stations.   (Sam Brooks/CBC - image credit)
Edmonton plans to add four new fire halls to its existing 30 stations. (Sam Brooks/CBC - image credit)

The City of Edmonton plans to build four new fire stations and upgrade several existing ones to bridge a potential gap in service in coming years.

City administration wants to start planning and designing a station for the northwest neighbourhood of Cumberland and another for the southeast neighbourhood of Walker.

If city council approves the projects in the next four-year capital and operating budgets, the stations are expected to be finished and open by 2026.

The Walker Fire Station is planned for Ward Karhiio where currently two stations — Mill Woods and Ellerslie — serve the area of approximately 95,000 people.

Ward Karhiio Coun. Keren Tang said new and upgraded fire resources are priorities in the 2023-26 budgets.

"It's really anticipating the growth of the city," Tang said in an interview last week. "And if we didn't do that, when an emergency does happen, we are going to really fail on our response time and it might not provide the service that's critically needed."

The southeast and southwest parts of the city are growing quickly and the city needs to address that, Tang said.

Potential gap in service

The city is moving Fire Station No. 8 West Yellowhead, at 125th Avenue and 128th Street, to Blatchford to make room for the Yellowhead Trail freeway conversion.

The proposed capital budget requires $23.7 million to complete the relocation.

The city anticipates opening the Blatchford Fire Station in 2025.

Coun. Erin Rutherford is concerned the move will create a gap in fire service in her Ward Anirniq after Fire Station No. 8 moves to Blatchford, while the Cumberland station isn't expected to be finished until 2026.

"It's going to leave a delayed response time in the northwest," Rutherford said last week.

Rutherford said that in the past 18 months, there have been at least five fires in the ward that resulted in injuries.

"I want to make sure that there's either really a good safety plan for how we're going to make sure those times aren't reduced, or how can we make sure that that Cumberland fire hall is fast-tracked," she said.

The planning and design money for both Cumberland and Walker fire halls are included in a $22.8-million budget request as part of growth projects in the 2023-26 capital budgets.

The city says it will develop more detailed costs as the projects progress.

Future stations

Two new stations are in the works: Big Lake in the northwest and Wedgewood in the southwest.

"Fire Rescue Services has identified the need for two additional stations in the far northwest and southwest areas of the city, based on the continued growth and development of those areas," the budget says.

The city aims to acquire the land for these sites in the next four years, with design and planning for the stations anticipated to be part of the 2027-30 capital budget cycle.

The four new stations are meant to improve fire rescue's response times.

Brad Kitiuk, deputy fire chief of fire rescue operations, said fire crews try to arrive at the scene of a fire within seven minutes of a call, 90 per cent of the time.

"The seven-minute window begins when our emergency communications centre is notified until the first responding unit arrives on scene," Kitiuk said in an email.

Rehab work for older stations

Two existing stations are due to be upgraded with energy retrofits and amenities to meet occupational health and safety requirements and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Upgrades for Callingwood Fire Station No. 19, at 62nd Avenue and 178th Street, are estimated to cost $11 million. The station was built in 1978.

Rehabilitation of University Fire Station No. 3, at 11226 76th Ave., is estimated to cost $10.5 million. The station was built in 1974.

Both would reopen in early 2024.

Fire Station No. 7, in Highlands, and Fire Station No. 22, in Oliver, are also slated for rehabilitation to meet current health and safety and diversity and inclusion standards, including gender-neutral washrooms.

Windermere gets net-zero fire hall

The next station to open is a net-zero station in Windermere next spring.

Tiffany Edgecombe, deputy fire chief of training and logistics, said the new three-bay station will help fire crews respond more quickly to calls in the area, currently covered by the Terwillegar and Heritage Valley stations.

"We know that right now we are not servicing this area in our standard response times," Edgecombe said last week at the launch of the state-of-the-art facility.

"This area was identified as an area of need back in 2017, as identified in our station location master plan and it will help to reduce our response times in the area."