The decommissioned fire hall in Port Kells has officially re-opened as Surrey Fire Fighters’ Association’s home base, with enough space for community uses and other events.
The rural hall, built in 1923, was purchased by the union a couple years ago and has since been renovated and expanded to around 6,000 square feet, on two levels.
Station 1271, as the building is now known, includes office space for Surrey Fire Fighters’ Charitable Society.
“We’ll have our historical trucks stored here, too – three trucks that have been restored, and they’re museum pieces, works of art,” noted Saverio Lattanzio, union executive vice-president.
“We’ll have social events here – union events, charity events, and it’ll be open to the public for certain things, too, such as weddings or birthday parties, community events, so it’ll be available for all kinds of uses,” Lattanzio added.
“It’ll give people a connection to the history of what fire service provides for the community and, in particular, the Port Kells fire hall.”
A public open house will be held at the building on Friday, May 10, from 3 to 5 p.m.
When the hall decommissioned three years ago, fire service in the community was absorbed by stations in neighbouring areas.
Lattanzio said the union outgrew “The Barge Inn,” its previous home in Newton, and found the Port Kells hall as an opportunity to create a multi-use hub.
“We needed something else, and this suits us really well,” he said. “We now have everything in one space, which is great, too. Our office, our union events, our charitable events and also our historical trucks.
The union spent close to $1.5 million on the purchase of the building from city, and also for the renovation and an expansion, with much of the work done by firefighters in their free time.
The building now includes a kitchen, meeting space and plenty of room for events.
A pole once used by firefighters to slide down, from the second storey to the ground-floor trucks, has been turned into a bar top that features a cross-section of a tree.
Hung on a wall in a rear stairwell, a Canadian flag has been made from retired hose and couplings.
“It took about 24 hours total to make,” said Jen Dale, who was inspired to create the flag after seeing a similar American one in the U.S.
“A lot of the hose has visible stamping on it that shows (the) service dates, so it’s a really neat piece of history for our department,” Dale added. “I am actually from England and moved to Canada 11 years ago, and have been with the fire service for just over two years. It’s become my family and I wanted to make something as a way of giving back to my brothers and sisters and showing them how grateful I am to work for such an incredible department.”
The building, at 18922 88th Ave., doubles as a heritage museum with the addition of the old fire trucks and info boards about them. Photos of former and current Surrey firefighters are also posted on a wall next to the trucks.
According to city documents, the building was erected in 1923 by the Surrey Farmers Institute for use as an agricultural hall, and was then leased to the Port Kells Congregation of the United Church of Canada from 1935 to 1947. That year, it leased to the District of Surrey for use as a fire hall.
Today family, friends, colleagues and community leaders gathered to celebrate the life of retired, Badge 45, Bill McNamara. Bill was a true city treasure. pic.twitter.com/pobLQD3kVG
— Surrey Fire Fighters (@Local1271) April 29, 2019
Surrey Fire Fighters Association Local 1271, organized in 1957 as part of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), includes 407 members of the city’s fire service, according to an “About Us” post at surreyfirefighters.com.
“We’re very fortunate that the Port Kells community has embraced us, right from the start, and supported us in buying the building and upgrading it,” Lattanzio said. “The people across the street, Port Kells Building Supply, they’ve been excellent, providing a lot of the materials used and also some of their equipment, and it’s nice to be part of the revitalization of this community, and we saw that with the gas station just to the west of us. That was a heritage building that’s been restored, and now with our building, there’s a new energy coming into this area.”