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Merging fire services for quicker response time.

Working better and smarter is the primary reason for constructing a new $3.2 million fire management headquarters in Cochrane according to a Ministry of Natural Resources official.

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"It represents a series of efficiencies for the fire management program here," says Brian Schulz, East Region Fire Services Coordinator.

An existing fire services garage will be renovated to allow for the construction of a 7,000-square-foot facility that will service the Cochrane region's fire management needs.

Identified as a priority several years ago, but delayed by administrative processes, the new headquarters will consolidate two of the three local fire service facilities. This will streamline many of the processes involved in the service's regular operation, says Schulz.

By relocating the work crews next to the planning offices, the transfer and flow of information will be tighter and more effective, he says. This will enable the government to communicate better with companies about topics such as pre-suppression planning, prescribed burning and fire prevention. Other general response areas, such as suppression activity forest management and various types of related forestry work, will also be planned and executed with greater in-house collaboration.

By moving planning and crew divisions into the same building, emergency response will be quicker and more accurate, he says.

"Basically, we'll be able to function better with anyone or anything that can be considered a causal agent [of forest fires]," he says.

The building will house 10 three-person seasonal fire ranger crews, with space for extra crews that can be brought on board if extensive emergencies make it necessary to add more staff. Seven to 10 permanent staff will also be housed there.

The overall approach towards increased efficiencies also extends to the facility's use of energy, which will be maximized as a result of a zoned heating and cooling system.

By featuring a single floor and a public entrance, the building offers what Schulz refers to as "barrier-free access" to the office. This is an improvement over the existing site, where there is no direct public entry to the second-floor office.

"If they want, companies can now walk right in and talk to us," he says.

The new, modernized site will also have an equipment maintenance section, where refit and repair processes such as basic equipment adjustments may be performed in-house. However, larger-scale maintenance will continue to be contracted out.

The facility will also provide daily direction to a similar, smaller-scale outpost in Hearst, as the Cochrane facility's coverage area will be too expansive for staff to adequately provide services to additional locations.

Working as a contractor on the project is Cochrane-based CGV Builders, which has already sunk pilings into the ground in anticipation of setting up footings and other foundation work. Geotechnical testing and sewer-related work is also underway, with the intent of completing the facility by late 2007, with full occupancy expected shortly afterwards.

Similar headquarters have already been constructed in Timmins, Sudbury, Chapleau and Wawa.

By NICK STEWART

Northern Ontario Business
COPYRIGHT 2007 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL REPORT: FORESTRY
Author:Stewart, Nick
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:495
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