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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Grand opening officially welcomes Fire Station #2

by Sylene Argent

Photos submitted by the Town of Essex. 

While most people run away from a disaster, firefighters and first responders run straight into the eye of the emergency to assist those in need. Now, Town of Essex Firefighters who serve the Ward 2 area have a new home to call their own, where they can suit up when an emergency call is made and head back to afterwards.

  On Saturday, the Town of Essex hosted an official ceremony to officially open the new, state-of-the-art Fire Station # 2, which is located at 3575 North Malden Road, at the County Road 15 intersection.

  During the ceremony, Firefighters were led into the facility within a procession that was led by bagpiper, John Woodbridge. Padre Chris Gevaert then provided a blessing, and Jason Nagy and Matthew Lepain performed “O Canada” on their trumpets.

  The pipes continued to play at the end of the ceremony when Firefighters ceremoniously pushed the firetrucks into their new bays.

  Essex Mayor Richard Meloche said the ceremony was beautiful, and he was impressed with the musical talent.

  Meloche was excited to finally open the facility the community has been anxious to see become operational. He said over the last 14-months, since construction began, he wondered when it was going to get to the point it could be opened. There was a shortage of items, due to COVID, which brought on some delays during the building process.

  “We finally have it in our hands. It is there to enhance services not only for current residents, but takes into consideration capacity growth,” Meloche said, noting there is plenty of building started, and planned, within the Town of Essex, including the McGregor area. “There is a lot of growth to come.” 

“It was very exciting today,” he said of the grand opening.

  The new 8500 square-foot facility features three bays, indoor parking for up to five fire service vehicles, an exhaust system, gender-neutral washrooms, with stall walls going right down to the floor, and a gear room, where firefighters can dress in their equipment. In addition, this will be a disaster relief facility.

  An agreement was made, Meloche added, with Ken Lapain & Sons Ltd next door, that if there is ever a major emergency, where the fire station needs to be used in a hazmat capacity, the Fire Service can sprawl out and temporarily use the neighbouring grounds if needed.

  Meloche added the new facility also has a beautiful training room, where all firefighters from all three stations can gather to learn in one location. Meloche said this will allow the instructor to teach in one location, rather than having to visit three different facilities to do so.

  In addition, the burn unit, currently housed at the Essex Water Treatment Plant, which is used also by neighbouring fire services and St. Clair College’s training program, will be moved to the North Malden location.

  The new Fire Stations also has a kitchen, and beautiful, unisex washrooms, Meloche noted, adding every bathroom stall, and shower facility, are private, so they can be used for men or women.

  Going forward, Meloche said the Town wanted to make sure there were washrooms available for everyone, including those with accessibility needs.

  “It is a beautiful facility,” Meloche said, noting three trucks will be housed there, but there is capacity for five. There is the ability to easily expand further, if needed, as the community grows. “We have the land to expand.”

  The Town will house its new ladder truck at Station # 2, when it is obtained. In the 2022 Budget, Essex Council approved purchasing a new $1.5M aerial platform truck, between 80’ and 100’, for Essex Fire & Rescue. The Town will decommission two existing platform trucks, which have exceeded their life span. During the initial Budget Walkthrough held in late November, Fire Chief Rick Arnel said the 70’ and 95’ aerial trucks currently in use are both 25-years-old, and need to be replaced. 

  Meloche said part of the Fire Master Plan was to go down to one ladder truck and park it in the middle of the community, so it can be dispatched to anywhere in the municipality if it is needed.

  At the ceremony, Meloche said he was pleased to welcome former firefighters who were part of the original fire department for Colchester North, Alphonse Brockman and Bob Myers. Meloche said that service was started in 1961. In 1962, the fire hall was added. Larry Shepley was also part of the crew, but was unable to attend the ceremony.

  “It was nice to have them there,” he said.

  Meloche said a neat element to the event was the helmet-shaped cake. Myers, Brockman, and Ed Lepain, District Chief for Fire Station # 2, and the Mayor got to cut the cake with a firefighter’s axe.

  “That was fun,” Meloche said.

  He added the Town did its best in being respectful of COVID restrictions and requirements while hosting the ceremony. As part of those precautions, he said those in attendance were able to take cupcakes to go.

  “This is an important addition to the community and will be integral to the safety and security of our residents,” Rick Arnel, Fire Chief, stated in a press release in regards to the new facility. “The location of our newest fire station will enhance the service provided to our residents as it is more central to established residential service areas.”

  The decision to build the new station and move its location was made through the results of a study that highlighted needs for better response times. In addition, a Facility Audit Report determined the current facility does not meet the needs of Essex Fire & Rescue Services for a host of reasons.

  There are plans to build a new fire station in Harrow. The Harrow and McGregor-based stations were built in the ‘60s and ‘70s and are too small for current equipment needs.

  Reasons the new Fire Station project was given a go ahead include because apparatuses do not fit in the current station properly, and all the bunker gear gets contaminated by firetrucks when they start up.

  In the 2020 Town of Essex Budget, $2.7M was allocated to long-term debt for the new Station #2 Fire Hall. The budget was subsequently increased $709,182, due to higher-than-expected costs, including adding grading and a swale to the property. Prevention of erosion had to be considered and roof anchors needed to be added. Wood prices, asphalt, and steel prices had also gone up.

  Previously, Station # 2, which serves the Colchester North and McGregor areas, was located in Gesto, on County Road 12. Since Monday, January 31, the Town of Essex Development Services Department – including by-law enforcement, building, planning services, and economic development – has been operating from the Gesto office.


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