Proposed LaSalle firehall raises safety concerns
A proposed secondary fire station in the heart of LaSalle’s heavily urbanized west side has raised concerns for some neighbourhood residents over safety and the loss of community park space.
Chris Knight, whose Superior Street home faces John Dupuis Park where the firehall would be built, said he chose to live in his quiet LaSalle neighbourhood because of the large park.
“That park is the centre of everything. I’ve met five or six families there … and they’ve become the closest friends I have,” Knight said. “That to me is exactly what a neighbourhood park should be about, the centre of the community.
“That would be a big loss for the community.”
The town is looking at locating a single-engine secondary station with a “much smaller footprint than a traditional fire station” and a small community room on the west end of the park facing Hazel Street, said LaSalle Fire Chief Dave Sutton.
Sutton said the master fire plan calls for two future fire stations to service the town’s growing population — a station centrally located in the west and a headquarter station centrally located in the east in the Laurier Parkway area to serve proposed residential growth and current neighbourhoods such as Heritage Estates.
The town moved its current firehall into a renovated public works building a couple of years ago when the municipal civic centre was rebuilt but Sutton said that was a short-term step.
“What we’re doing now is setting up part of that two-station model,” Sutton said of the proposed new hall. “A future headquarter station a little further east of the Vollmer would provide optimum coverage in the four-kilometre response areas through the whole municipality.”
A big factor in choosing the site is its proximity and ease of access by the town’s paid on-call responders, most of whom live in the area. This could improve emergency response times.
“It’s really critical to locate the station in the area … where we have the majority of responders for that area,” Sutton said. “That’s really what’s driven some of the criteria and the recommendations for this station.”
But Knight said the plan leaves a lot of unanswered questions including how the site was chosen, why other sites were eliminated and how a firehall/community room will affect traffic levels.
“The fact that the town passed a really strong parks and recreation plan and within two years they want to go back on that plan and take away park space is part of it
too,” Knight said.
“Ultimately … it’s dangerous. The fact that our heavily used park (is) full of children and now they want emergency vehicles and fast-moving traffic in the area, it just boggles the mind.”
Sutton, who also lives in the neighbourhood, said he had concerns about the safety of children in the area and increased noise levels but the site plan was developed to address those issues.
It is the site of the former Col. Bishop elementary school and a subsequent community centre that was demolished a number of years ago.
Part of the recommendation council is considering includes the reconstruction and upgrade of Hazel Street where all the traffic
to the hall and community room would travel.
“There wouldn’t be any increased traffic on municipal side streets where the homes face,” Sutton said. “The whole concept of enhancing emergency response in the area should be a plus for most folks.”
As for the park area, he said the play structures would move slightly east and the developed area between the two berms would be basically the same size.
“There’s no intention to destroy or eliminate the park,” he said. “Actually the usable park space will remain approximately the same as what’s there now.”
A public open house and information session is being held May 31 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Civic Centre, 5950 Malden Rd. The proposed site plan and conceptual designs will be available. There are also on the town’s website at lasalle.ca.
Chris Knight is concerned the proposed location of a secondary firehall in LaSalle will have a negative effect on Dupuis Park. A public open house on the matter is set for May 31.