May 23, 2019 9:57 am
Updated: May 24, 2019 12:48 am

Burnaby Mountain residents call for their own fire hall, emergency plan at community meeting

WATCH: Residents of a growing community on Burnaby Mountain held a town hall to call for a local fire hall and emergency evacuation plan, both of which have been missing for years. Rumina Daya reports.

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People who live and work on Burnaby Mountain say they feel unsafe with the lack of emergency services in the sky-high community.

At a town hall on Wednesday, more than 100 residents took their concerns directly to the city’s mayor and fire officials, including calls for their own fire hall and a community emergency plan.

“My wife has asthma, she’s allergic to smoke,” one resident said. “What are we going to do?”

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Other attendees said they wanted to make one thing especially clear — they are separate from nearby Simon Fraser University (SFU), whose staff aren’t around to respond to emergencies.

“We are not SFU’s priority, they are not in charge of us,” another resident who works at the university said. “We’re going to be treated as a leftover afterthought.”

The area has exploded in population since the opening of the UniverCity development in 2001, which now houses more than 6,000 residents and is expected to grow.

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Mayor Mike Hurley said he is aware of the community’s concerns and that city staff are working on addressing them.

“We understand, and we know that public safety is important,” he said.

The need for a local fire hall has increased as response times continue to lag behind the national standard of six minutes, which the UniverCity Community Association said isn’t being met 98 per cent of the time.

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Burnaby Deputy Fire Chief Dave Samson agreed the statistic is alarming but said crews are responding as best they can.

“We can’t predict every single emergency but we’re pretty confident we have things covered,” he said. “It’s always challenging to get to the top of a mountain.”

Hurley said staff are in the middle of determining the location for a fire hall on the mountain, and he hopes to have one finalized within the next six months.

That plan would also have to look at staffing, he said.

An emergency evacuation plan would come along with the building and staffing of a fire hall, but Hurley said it’s also a condition for Trans Mountain to meet if the pipeline expansion goes ahead.

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The new pipeline would twin an existing line that runs to the Kinder Morgan tank farm down the mountain from UniverCity. The tank farm would have to be expanded to accommodate the new product being shipped in from Alberta.

“If the expansion goes ahead, they need to put an evacuation plan in place six months ahead of that new tank farm getting up and running,” Hurley said.

“So we’ve been asking Trans Mountain for what their plan is so we can dovetail our plan with theirs.”

Right now, community leaders say the only way for residents to evacuate en masse in the wake of a disaster is to hike down the mountain.

Residents will have a chance to give their feedback to the community association on whether their concerns were properly addressed following the town hall.

— With files from Rumina Daya

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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