Report favours halls in St. Williams, Port Rowan

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

St. Williams Fire Station (File photo).

St. Williams Fire Station (File photo).


Norfolk staff does not support the idea of combining fire halls in St. Williams and Port Rowan at a new location.

Such a move has implications for response times and insurance rates in this part of Norfolk.

As well, a location in the country-side would require new construction on prime agricultural land contrary to provincial policy.

If the two stations were combined, the logical location for a “superstation” would be the intersection of Walsingham East Quarter Line Road and Lakeshore Road.

“This would prove problematic for response times,” Norfolk Fire Chief Terry Dicks says in a report to council.

“The firefighters from St. Williams would travel to the extreme west side of their district and the firefighters from Port Rowan would travel to the extreme east side of their district to reach the new proposed fire station. St. Williams firefighters would experience an increase of approximately two minutes longer to get to the proposed site due to the extended travel time.”

Under provincial policy, rural fire departments must have at least six firefighters at the scene of an emergency in 14 minutes or less 80 per cent of the time. Dicks says there is a good chance Norfolk won’t be able to meet this standard with the proposed central location.

That in turn would attract the attention of fire insurance underwriters as well as the Office of the Fire Marshal, which could order a county-wide review of fire services.

The result could be higher home and business insurance rates in south-west Norfolk. There could also be expensive orders to rejig fire services in the St. Williams-Port Rowan area.

Norfolk council ordered a review of fire service in the St. Williams-Port Rowan area last year after agreeing that the St. Williams area needs a new fire hall.

The fire hall in St. Williams is 67 years old, is cramped for space, and is becoming increasingly expensive to repair.

Meanwhile, the former Township of Norfolk built the fire hall in Port Rowan in its current location because this was land owned by the municipality.

Were the station in Port Rowan located on the basis of service delivery and response times, Dicks said it would have been built on Highway 59 on the outskirts of town.

From a strategic, response-time perspective, Dicks said the best plan is to build a new station in St. Williams while relocating the Port Rowan fire hall to “a more strategic location” 30 years from now when the station wears out.

For its part, Norfolk’s planning department says the county would have to file a zoning application to establish a fire hall in the country-side between St. Williams and Port Rowan. An environmental impact study would likely be needed. As well, a decision to build a superstation could be subject to an Ontario Municipal Board challenge.

Norfolk council has set aside $1.5 million for the construction of a new fire hall in St. Williams in 2019. Norfolk council will consider Dicks’ report Tuesday at its committee meeting at Governor Simcoe Square. The public is welcome to attend.