Kananaskis Country to receive $18.5M emergency services centre

The province has committed $18.5M in funding over three years to replace the existing facility built for the '88 Olympics.

Current facility is 30 years old, built for the '88 Olympics

The 30-year-old Kananaskis Emergency Services Centre will be fully replaced by 2019. (CBC)

Kananaskis Country is getting a new emergency services centre, to the tune of $18.5 million.

The province has committed the funding over the next three years to replace the current facility, which is 30 years old and was built for the 1988 Olympics. 

The new centre is "vital" to public safety, says area MLA Cam Westhead.

"Today's announcement is a major milestone in the development of the Kananaskis region," said Mark Storie, the regional director for Alberta Parks.

The emergency services centre houses full-time and casual firefighters as well as an advanced life-support EMS unit with two AHS staff on site at all times. 

Design work on the new centre is to start this year with the centre expected to be fully operational by 2019.

Jeremy Mackenzie, a public safety specialist with Kananaskis Country, says call volumes have significantly increased over the past decade. (CBC)

Craig Halifax, the chief of emergency services for Kananaskis, said the centre has reached the end of its lifecycle. Larger firefighting vehicles no longer fit in the main houses, and the building is showing the wear and tear that comes with 30 years of constant use.

"The facility maintenance we've seen increasing every year as far as the time and cost that needs to be put into the building to keep it running," said Halifax. 

Call volumes on the rise

Westhead said the number of dispatch calls fielded through the Kananaskis centre has increased tenfold since 2000.

"Currently, emergency services centre staff respond to more than 4,000 incidents per year," he said.

Emergency calls in 2016 have already doubled what they were at this time in 2015, Westhead added.

"There's been a very positive trend in the [past] 10 years," said Jeremy Mackenzie, a public safety specialist with Kananskis Country Public Safety.

Newer, larger fire trucks don't even fit in the old Kananaskis emergency services building anymore, says Craig Halifax. (CBC)

He attributed the rise in calls to the growth of Calgary's population.

"If you have a certain number of visitors you're probably going to have a certain number of calls," he said.

Mackenzie said there have been 88 public safety calls to the centre so far this year. 

With files from Radio-Canada's Mario De Ciccio