Volunteer firefighters in McLeese Lake are marking a milestone this weekend after acquiring a piece of property to build a fire hall, something the department have been hoping to get for a long time.
McLeese Lake Volunteer Fire Department president Ian Hicks said it’s been an extremely difficult six years getting to this point.
“There was a pizza-pie shaped piece of property down by the lake that was outside of the Agricultural Land Reserve that we were able to survey and create a legal agreement for with the local recreation society,” Hicks told the Tribune.
“One of our members has a daughter that’s a lawyer and she volunteered to create the agreement, which went back and forth to fine tune the wording.”
Hicks praised the Cariboo Regional District for being “totally on board,” in supporting the fire department in pursuing getting some land to use for building a hall and safely storing vehicles and equipment.
“Our area director, Steve Forseth, was just amazing — you have to love the guy. He is always helping us out.”
For his part, Forseth told the Tribune the property acquisition is great news.
He noted the community of McLeese Lake and Tyee Lake, where a fire hall was completed earlier this year, will both have their dreams realized before he completes his CRD director term in 2022.
“I know the community of McLeese Lake is pumped to get the construction going,” he said, adding he has also contacted BC Assessment Authority to ensure both fire halls are not subject to taxation.
“They told me to check in with them in October 2020 to make sure the halls are coded in so they are exempt.”
Hicks said for $1 the fire department has signed a 25-year agreement for the land.
“It’s lakefront which means unlimited water and in the future, long after I’m gone, the fire department could even have a fire boat,” Hicks said.
“Half the properties here are on the lake and all backed by forest. If you get a fire boat, there’s no danger whatsoever when you are in a boat. You can set yourself off shore and with a powerful enough cannon hit halfway up the mountainside.”
A “golden shovel,” event will begin at noon, Saturday, Dec. 14, with hot dogs, chili and coffee near the old ice rink right next to the property.
“It’s not a fundraiser, just a celebration,” Hicks added.
Recently the McLeese Lake Volunteer Dept. learned it will receiving a provincial gaming grant in the amount of $43,000.
Hicks said it’s the fourth or fifth year the department has received the grant from the province, but this year’s amount has left him overjoyed because it is so large.
“We are thankful, blessed, lucky and are going to put it to good use,” he said.
“The first time we got about $8,000 and thought ‘wow’ because we often cooked hamburgers for a day just to raise $300.”
The Gaming Branch is their biggest supporter, he said.
“And now we can use the money from them for operating expenses, which is so helpful,” Hicks added.
“It can go for tires, insurance, even fuel, that we need when we attend calls, so it is really awesome.”
Hicks was the driving force behind the creation of the fire department after a fiery crash about five kilometres north of McLeese Lake on Highway 97 claimed five lives, including four from one family.