Fire safety centre raises questions for council

     If you see smoke billowing from the Kenmount Business Park this fall, don’t panic. It might just be the Falck firefighting training school in operation.
     Last week, Mount Pearl council approved an application by a construction company to complete a 10 metre by 20 metre concrete pad and accessory building for Falck to host its firefighting training centre at the back of 35 Becklin Road.
     “The exercises will include extinguishing fires in portable fire pans, and a portable sea container located within the fenced in area will be used to undertake interior safety training,” said councillor Andrew Ledwell, who chairs council’s Planning and Development Committee.
     Ledwell noted that being in an industrial park, many of the activities neighboring the facility are similar in nature. “But the development regulations do consider this a hazardous use, which makes it a ‘Discretionary Use’ for council,” he added. “We have discussed it as a committee and are prepared to recommend that council issue a conditional development permit based on the conditions outlined by the Regional Fire Department.”
     Those conditions include that Falck notify the appropriate provincial government departments and check whether it is a requirement to have sprinkler and other systems in place.
     The City advertised a public briefing session in the daily newspaper on the application but received no responses and so the meeting was cancelled.
     “I have a concern which comes to mind,” said Mayor Randy Simms. “This is in the middle of an industrial park and it is for firefighting training. So what are they burning? What kind of billowing smoke are we going to see from this? Does anyone have a concern at all? Did our planners and inspectors talk about that at all?”
     Planning and Development Director Stephen Jewczyk confirmed staff did look for details about the operation. Jewczyk said the company will use propane for both the outside and interior fires. “So I don’t believe you will see billowing smoke, but you will see a fire there,” he said. “There will be some smoke.”
     Jewczyk added there were no concerns expressed by neighboring property owners despite the public notice being “pretty explicit about what was happening.” The provincial Fire Commissioner’s Office doesn’t have a problem with it, he noted, and the Regional Fire Department plans to use the training facility too.
     Deputy Mayor Jim Locke asked how often the facility will be used and whether there is a plan to communicate the frequency of the activities to the neighbouring companies. “I’m just thinking, if a number of residents see smoke coming out of the Kenmount Business Park and they don’t know that it’s a practice run, is there going to be an influx of calls to out 911, or the fire department or anything like that?”
     Jewczyk said he will check on the training schedule. The City could make it a condition of the operation permit that Falck notify its neighbours when it plans a burn, he said.
     Councillor John Walsh said Falck has such training schools throughout Canada and the fires are contained and controlled and this facility is unlikely to be a neighbourhood nuisance. “I don’t think it’s anything to be concerned about,” he said.

Posted on September 17, 2015 .