Edmonton reopens river valley fire station

An Edmonton fire station dating back to the 1940s has been revived after laying dormant for the past two decades.

The Rossdale Fire Station 21 held an open house on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the reopening of the river rescue station.

A team of five firefighters will watch over the North Saskatchewan River and provide backup to the busy downtown core from the renovated building. It brings the number of fire stations in the city to 30. 

“There was really no better place to put an additional fire station than where we already had one right here,” said Mayor Don Iveson.

Community league now supports station’s return

City council’s 2014 decision to reopen the station sparked a backlash from the community league over traffic, noise and development concerns in the river valley.

The dispute culminated in the community league applying for an appeal of the decision, which was dismissed in 2017, paving the way for the renovated station.

“The imperative to be able to respond on the river and have that extra rescue unit in the core more than offsets some of those other challenges,” Iveson said.

Mayor Don Iveson said the renovations cost significantly less than building a new fire station. (Manuel Carrillos-Avalos/CBC)

The community league was assured after learning about the small crew and a buffer zone between the station and a new park, said treasurer Natalie Bunting.

“We’re here to celebrate the firefighters returning and the beautiful facility that they’ve been able to develop,” she said at Saturday’s open house.

Budgetary constraints prompted the station to close in 1997. The $7.5-million renovation project cost about half as much as building a new station.  

The one-storey building was restored using brick from the original 1949 station on the inside walls, while making improvements to plumbing, electrical and heating systems.

‘The station is integral’

Edmonton’s main downtown fire station responded to around 15 per cent of the 53,000 emergency calls in 2018, fire chief Ken Block said.

The Rossdale crew will help backstop those calls, while cutting down response times for river emergencies without drawing resources from nearby stations. Block said firefighters carried out around 80 river rescues last year, and he expects the number to continue to grow as city promotes activity in the river valley.

“This station is integral to our delivery of service. It’s going to be needed more five years from now than it is today, and we need it today,” he said.

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