The Mi'kmaw community of Lennox Island on P.E.I. is celebrating the grand opening of its fire hall this weekend, which has improved public safety in the small community, according to the chief.
Lennox Island First Nation, about 70 kilometres northwest of Charlottetown, has about 400 residents. Chief Darlene Bernard said they've needed a new fire facility for over 20 years as the old fire hall was dilapidated and rain leaked in through the roof.
She said the new facility is something to marvel at.
"We have the trucks in there, we have all the equipment that's needed to keep our firefighters and first responders in our community safe, so I'm extremely delighted about it," said Bernard.
The new hall has been in operation for six months and the open house on Saturday is a day for the community to celebrate it.
Bernard said the new hall cost $1.5 million and rising costs for materials were a real barrier for the project. But now that it's done, Bernard says her community is safer.
"We've lost houses because of fires, and people's lives are in danger because of fires and things like that, so it's extremely important," said Bernard.
She said the Lennox Island fire department also supports the surrounding communities in emergency situations.
Fire Chief Robert Lewis, who has spent close to 30 years in the fire service, said they needed the new hall to meet the community's needs.
"We have a growing community and a lot more houses and a lot more people and infrastructure and we really needed a better facility to work out of to be able to support the community," said Lewis, 53.
He said the fire team is expecting a new emergency vehicle in December.
Open house with games
Mary-Beth Robichaud, a volunteer firefighter, is helping to organize the open house. She's volunteered with the department for two years and said the 22-person team is close knit.
"People in our department come together to become a family," said Robichaud, 22.
"We always have each other's back. We're a whole other family."
Robichaud said she helped to secure $1,500 in grant funding through Rising Youth to build training apparatus. The money went toward lumber, nails and screws to build a basement window simulation, a crawl through situation, a wall escape and follow through simulation.
She said when the simulations are finished, they can open up to the public, too, so they feel prepared.
"You never know when your training might be needed," said Robichaud.
Robichaud said the open house will have a tour of the new hall along with games like hoses and ladders and foam dice. The fire department will also be giving out fire prevention packages.