From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:
Remember This . . . Central Fire Hall finds a new home
The fire department is an important part of the infrastructure of any community and needs to have up-to-date equipment and facilities. Therefore in January 1975, city council, recognizing this need, allocated $1.2 million in the capital works budget for the construction of a new fire station.
By this point in time the Sault’s old Central Fire Station, located at the corner of Bruce and Wellington Streets was 53 years old. The building was overcrowded, inefficiently heated, and logistically out-dated. An office designed for one person was actually used by four fire inspectors and a secretary. There were no shower facilities for the firefighters and the building was still using the original heating system from 1922.
The windows were not energy efficient and did not block out the cold. In addition to all of the other problems, the roof leaked, despite repeated attempts to fix it. The doors for the fire trucks were too narrow for the modern equipment and they opened onto a one-way street, forcing fire trucks to go around the block in order to attend a fire in the east end of the city.
By the early 1980s, city staff had examined a number of locations in their search for a site on which to build the fire hall. In February 1981, city council voted to use the city owned property at Bay and Tancred Streets in a vote of 8 – 5.
The site occupied by Traders Metal Scrap Yard, located across from the current site of the casino was a favoured alternative. However this location would delay the new build by two years and have a high initial cost outlay. Those opposed to the Bay and Tancred location suggested that selling the city owned site would generate approximately $380,000 in sales revenue with additional income being generated by the future property taxes that could be collected.
A petition signed by 500 people opposing the site was presented to city council by George Chadjideris, owner of the Jiffy Car Wash. Fire Chief John Ryan and platoon Chief Paul Paolini (representing the Firefighters Association) supported the Bay and Tancred location. They argued that the 1922 building needed to be replaced, the site was centrally located and a Tancred access would allow deployment of trucks in either direction.
Despite the opposition, the Tancred Street site was determined to be the best site.
Construction began on the new fire hall and it was finally completed in early 1983. Designed by architect Chris Tossell, the new station featured five large bays to accommodate modern aerial fire trucks. A modern alarm system was installed allowing the fire department to provide customers with a better fire service.
The annual report of the fire department for 1983 indicates that the location “has proven to provide us with better access and improved response time to the area covered by this facility.” It went on to state that the building had also made life easier for the firefighters with the improvement in their work environment. The improved heating system shortened the length of time that it required to dry out the fire hoses making their turnaround time much faster.
It has been 34 years since this “new” fire station was built. There have been a lot of changes over the years but the fire station and its firefighters continue to fill a vital role in the ongoing safety of our community.
Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.