The ongoing battle over the public use of the Deka Lake Fire Hall is heating up again, after the fire chief quit and the local ratepayers’ group was told they have a month to get out.
Longtime fire chief Al Boyce, who said he decided to leave the volunteer hall after 26 years because of “relentless attacks” from community groups who were told last year that they could no longer use the hall for public events.
The upstairs space in the fire hall had been used by community groups – primarily the Deka Lake Ratepayers Association – and for CRD-led public meetings for many years.
But while the hall, built in 1996 on a 14-acre parcel, was originally constructed as a dual-purpose facility with communal space on the second floor, official paperwork dug up by CRD staff indicates it was permitted as a fire hall only.
Boyce said this means the fire department would be liable if anything should happen to the public. Besides this, he said, the fire department has changed a lot in the past 26 years. Fire crews now require more stringent standards and they need the upstairs space to provide training on an ongoing basis.
“The fire department is not the same as it was 26 years ago. The space downstairs wasn’t big enough,” Boyce said. “It had to change.”
The Cariboo Regional District sent an email to the Deka Lake Ratepayers Association Monday night, saying the fire hall will be designated for fire hall purposes only. CAO John MacLean said the board confirmed the decision at the July 8 board meeting.
The move comes four months after the board said it would explore the logistics and costs of upgrading the Deka Lake volunteer fire hall for dual-use Building Code standards.
This would have required “substantial construction” to bring it up to dual-use safety standards.
The ratepayers’ association said it will fight the decision, noting they had asked for a public meeting with the CRD and are still waiting for a response.
Boyce, 53, said he plans to concentrate on his family and his physical and mental health.
MacLean said the CRD wishes Boyce well for his long service to the department.
“He deserves nothing but the best.”