Residents of Cherry Grove appear ready to support a firehall in their community.

The M.D. of Bonnyville held an open house last Thursday to gauge support for the idea. The M.D.’s chief administrative officer Al Hoggan, Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority chief Dan Heney, and Ward 6 councillor Ben Fadeyiw were on hand to explain the possible project and to answer residents’ questions.

The idea of a firehall in the hamlet has been circulating for the past half dozen years, but it gained new urgency this spring in the wake of several structure fires, including one that destroyed the Latter-Day Saints church.

A suitable piece of land already owned by the M.D. has been identified as a probable site. The building design that was used to co-house the Ardmore firehall and its grader shop would work equally well in Cherry Grove, Fadeyiw said, saving the cost of creating a new design. 

The grader shop serving Cherry Grove would move from its current location in Beaver Crossing to the new Cherry Grove facility.

But before committing funds to construction, M.D. council needed to know that residents would volunteer the manpower.

Heney said they’d need a roster of at least 24 volunteer firefighters. Factoring in people moving away or not completing training, he said he’d be encouraged to see about 40 people sign up.

Almost 60 people have signed up so far.

“It’s a really tight community, I had no doubts about it,” Fadeyiw said. “But we have to prove to a council of seven people, to make a decision moving forward, that there is positive impact.”

The cost of building and equipping the combined firehall/grader shop would come to about $7 million, he said.

The destruction of the church made it clear the community needed its own firehall, according to Fadeyiw. 

“The amount of calls I received from people who were just helpless — these people came and were watching the fire and could do nothing about it. And I think that was a devastating part of it,” he said. “Definitely it was a catalyst.”

In addition to the security of having firefighters close by, residents can expect to benefit from the lower insurance rates that come from having a firehall within 12 kilometres. A volunteer firefighting force would also have emergency medical response capability.

Council will continue to consider the matter.