Hamilton Fire Department deputy chief John Verbeek – Barry Gray
Hamilton City Council has approved $8 million to build a second Waterdown fire station and purchase two new fire trucks. It is also looking at hiring five more firefighters for the town’s existing station in the meantime.
The money for the station and trucks was allocated in the city’s 2020 capital budget, which was finalized late last year. Now, as the city works through operating budget deliberations, council will decide whether to approve a requested Waterdown-based day crew of five new firefighters to help fill the needs of the growing community as it waits for the new station.
Hamilton Fire Department deputy chief John Verbeek says the rapid pace of development and population growth in the area has put extra pressure on Station 24, the existing Waterdown station on Parkside Drive. Firefighters there — a mix of about 20 paid employees and 25 volunteers — cover a vast rural area outside the town as well.
“At the time of amalgamation, when you think about Waterdown, it was a suburban-rural-type community,” Verbeek told the Review. “It’s become much more of an urban-suburban community. There’s not only residential, but industry is starting to move near Highway 5 and Highway 6 … The risk profile for that community has significantly changed.”
Verbeek says the prevalence of townhouses and other multi-unit dwellings means more risk of fires spreading between units. Further, he said, newly constructed homes tend to use more lightweight materials than the homes of the past, particularly for roof trusses and floor joists. “That type of material tends to burn hotter and faster. Now we’ve got more of a risk of a collapse.”
The station’s location has yet to be determined, according to assistant deputy chief Shawn De Jager. “Currently we are working with stakeholders to begin the process of defining the station requirements/concept and determining the location,” he said in an email. “It is expected that this work should be completed by the fourth quarter of this year.”
Verbeek noted that stakeholders currently being consulted are internal; he expects a public input process will be launched once more details are available.
Ward 15 Coun. Judi Partridge said one of many location being considered is on the Waterdown bypass, east of Centre Road.
“We’ve been having meetings and discussions for years and looking at potential locations,” she said in an interview Jan. 31, adding, “One of the driving factors behind it is to utilize city-owned property.”
The fire department’s 10-year service plan, published last year, envisioned a land purchase for the station in 2019. It forecast the design and build phase for 2020 to 2022, and 15 full-time-equivalent positions hired for the new station in 2022.
Verbeek said that while the timeline is slightly delayed from when it was devised more than a year ago, things are moving along relatively on course.
According to that document, the existing Waterdown station “has on average 1.96 calls per day. This represents a 5.2-per-cent annual increase over the last five years, or 22-per-cent increase in 2018 when compared to 2014. Analysis of data for (calls that require four trucks, such as structure fires) reveals an average of 8.6 … calls per year, which has doubled in the last two years.”
The plan suggests a goal of 10 minutes and 54 seconds from the phone call to the arrival of all four trucks. The current response time for a four-truck unit, known as an Effective Firefighting and Rescue Force (EFRF), in Waterdown is 18 minutes and 46 seconds.
“Given the transition to an urban area and the increased risk
profile there is a need to improve the EFRF response time in Waterdown.”
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: When it was revealed that 2020 capital budget funds were allocated for the construction of a new fire station in Waterdown, the Review wanted to find out more about the fire department’s plans to build a new facility aimed at better serving the community.