Petrolia’s fire training centre finds a new home

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Petrolia’s soon-to-be defunct sewage treatment plant is about to get a new tenant: the Petrolia North Enniskillen Fire Department.

Earlier this month, the town was given $7 million from both the federal and provincial governments to build a new $21.4 million plant in front of the current facility on the Maude Street extension near the town’s compost site.

The current plant was built in 1975 and over the last couple of years has needed emergency repairs to keep things operating smoothly. Work on the new plant is expected to start in October with completion slated for 2017.

Once the work is done, Fire Chief Lawrence Swift and a committee of firefighters will have a plan to turn a number of buildings at the old plant into their fire-training centre.

Last summer, the fire department got the blessing of Petrolia and Enniskillen Townships to build a $170,000 training centre and fire museum behind the Centre Street Fire Hall. But as the foundation was dug, old oil wells were found. That delayed the project and eventually led the fire department to start considering other locations.

When town officials began getting positive responses from government officials on the possibility of funding for the new wastewater treatment centre, they floated the idea of using an office building and warehouse at the site as the training centre instead. Swift liked the idea.

“The office building will likely to be repurposed into a training room,” he says. “The large warehouse like building will need a new roof on it; but it is a large warehouse area, similar in size to our existing fire station. We will be able to build our props and training items and utilize that building.”

“It’s an excellent opportunity.”

Swift says the land is already zoned industrial and he expects the renovations will cost roughly the same amount of money as the new, much smaller building would have at the fire hall.

“We raised about $100,000 of cash and a number of in-kind donations …that’s all that is going to be needed for the two projects.

“This is out of the way, it’s zoned for it, there is a little more room so there is a better opportunity for some of the training, there were some things we were really trying to squish in on the postage stamp lot we have on Centre Street.”

Swift adds the department will likely put the fire memorabilia which has been collected for a museum in a refurbished room in the fire hall on Centre Street.

The chief says it will be some time before firefighters are able to train at the new centre. The construction of the new water treatment plant is expected to take 18 months and only after it is completed and the treatment of the town’s sewage is switched over to the new plant will the department have a chance to start renovating.

In the meantime, firefighters have formed two committees, one for the training centre, one for the museum, to plan out the two new centres.

Swift says he can’t wait saying this is a “unique opportunity” which “benefits everyone.”

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