It took a community to save Calgary Fire Station No. 6.
When the Louise Station (No. 6) was pegged for closure after being open for only 10 years, and resources moved to the north Calgary community of Livingston, Vincent St. Pierre took it upon himself to rally his community against the recommendation.
“They’re across the street. They’re a neighbour,” said St. Pierre.
“I’ve seen the hollowing out of services, from the municipality, from the province, for years.”
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St. Pierre gathered five volunteers to work with him to rally against the closure.
Nearly 4,000 Calgarians were involved – via email, phone, petition – in protecting the fire hall, St. Pierre said.
“We had roughly 879 signatures,” he said.
“We elect people, and we give them power to make these decisions and they have real impact on people. I look at it and I go, it requires people’s attention. It requires their involvement and their requires their advocacy.”
The strategically placed fire station in Eau Claire serves approximately 25,000 Calgarians living in the communities of Sunnyside, Hillhurst, Beltline, Eau Claire, Downtown West, and the Downtown core.
A negative domino effect
Closing the hall would have hampered the Calgary fire department’s ability to respond to high rise and aquatic emergencies.
According to Calgary Firefighters Association spokesperson Matt Osborne, the closure would have increased Calgary Fire Department response times. It would have created a domino effect onto other fire stations across the city.
“That’s why we talked about this as a disaster in the making, looking at closing the inner-city fire halls,” said Osbourne.
“Not just because of trying to predict what the response times may be, but the domino effect, that spinning of not having enough fire trucks to be able to look after all the emergencies.”
He explained that taking a fire hall out of the model means other halls have to tend to other communities’ emergencies, and services may not arrive in time.
“As first repsonders, a lot for us is response times,” said Osbourne.
“Seconds matter in our business.”
Safe… for now
Along with citizens, some councillors, including Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell also spoke up against the closure of the hall.
“After hearing pushback from Calgarians, the Calgary Firefighters Association, Councillors Woolley and Gondek, and myself, City Administration decided not to recommend closure of Fire Hall #6,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
She said the potential closure of Fire Station 6 was brought on by the unsustainable growth on Calgary’s edges. While safe today, the station isn’t spared from future closure, Farrell wrote.
City Administration will again review a possible closure of Fire Station No. 6 in the 2022 budget.
“Next year, we know that there’s more carry forward cuts that need to happen with this – a little over $50 million,” said Osborne.
“We still have concerns about next year.”
St. Pierre said citizens need to stay vocal about what they value in Calgary.
“One thing that needs to happen is that people need to keep up the pressure, stay involved, and have a focus on city council to safeguard these inner-city services because there’s a history to it,” he said.