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The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Peter Brewer

After major delays, a new city fire and ambulance station moves closer

Canberra's first electric fire truck

After nearly a two-year delay due to COVID restrictions and construction material supply issues, work has finally started on the new Acton fire and ambulance "showcase" station which is being designed to deliver industry-leading levels of decontamination for firefighters.

The $40 million modular building will be built on a steep, difficult site which drops away sharply into Sullivans Creek, requiring the Canberra-based Shaw Building Group to construct an eight-metre block retaining wall at its base to prevent an ingress from flooding, a further staged 13-metre rise to level the block, and tens of thousands of square metres of fill imported to the site.

Firefighters Union national boss Greg McConville had berated the ACT government back in January over its delays in getting the project moving and highlighted the risk that construction delays posed to getting units quickly to residents out in the fast-growing Molonglo Valley, which the station will serve.

An artist's impression of the new fire and ambulance station facing Clunies Ross Street in Acton. Picture supplied

A separate fire station is also planned for the western valley on the edge of the Cotter Road, but not for another two years.

The block on Clunies Ross Street, Acton, has now been cleared and fenced, and the civil works will start shortly, including diverting the enormous storm water run-off which cascades down the slopes of Black Mountain during heavy rain.

The Emergency Services Agency says the new building will be state-of-the-art, with positive and negative air pressure zones within the building to ensure that firefighters don't carry any decontaminants from fire grounds into the station.

There will be bays for up to six ambulances and three fire trucks, and this station will be the new home for the territory's $1.5 million Rosenbauer hybrid electric fire truck, which was unveiled back in May but is yet to go into operational service.

ESA acting Commissioner Jason Jones, Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman, ambulance chief Howard Wren and fire chief Matt Mavity at the new Action site. Picture by Karleen Minney

As new high-rise residential buildings go up in the city and Woden, the Acton station will house aerial appliances designed to fight those types of fires.

The roof of the station will have solar panels to power up the electric fire truck and also new electric ambulances for the ACT, the first of which are expected to enter service later this year. A small electric substation will be located nearby, and a huge back-up generator will be sited at the rear of block.

As occupational health and safety has become such a major issue for firefighters due to hazardous building materials and emerging threats such as lithium-ion batteries, firefighters who return to the station from a fire site will be required to shed and bag their working gear, and enter a positive air pressure zone.

Looking at the rear of the new fire and ambulance station from the lake side. Picture supplied

Canberra has the fastest metropolitan fire response times in the country and Chief Fire Officer Matt Mavity said the Acton location, which will feed appliances straight onto Parkes Way, will further protect that rapid attendance record.

"Our traditional fire stations were probably more akin to a footy shed," Mr Mavity said.

"Our change sheds and locker areas didn't cater for gender diversity very well.

"The functional design of the station of the station is about well-being. We will have what we call dirty and clean transitional areas and that means any contaminants we might bring back from the fire ground are kept isolated from where the staff are.

"We decontaminate firstly at the fire scene in a hygiene pod before they [the firefighters] get back in the truck."

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