Construction has begun on a permanent building for provincial fire fighters stationed in Valemount.

The building replaces five mobile trailers and is being funded by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations.

The upgrade will add a new fire zone office and initial attack base at the site, which is located adjacent Yellowhead Helicopters just north of town. The base is currently made up of a gated compound and a five portable sheds and trailers.

Wildfire personnel will work out of a modern, permanent facility and wildfire operations will be able to expand more easily when the workload increases, according to Ministry spokesperson Brennan Clarke. Having just one building will also result in lower heating and maintenance costs over the life of the structure, he says. The floor area of the new office building will be slightly greater than that of five existing trailers.

Construction is anticipated to take 6 to 9 months, and will open in 2013. No disruption to fire response or ongoing wildfire management program activities is anticipated.

The 3 trailers that provided on-site accommodations for fire crew members will no longer be available. Crew members will now have to find accommodations in-town with their living allowance. The space allocated for crew housing during the construction stage will also be limited, since construction crews will need room for the temporary office trailers.

There will be no new staff or crews at the base on a permanent basis.

The Valemount Fire Zone office is home to two full-time staff and 11 seasonal staff, including two auxiliary staff and three three-person initial attack crews. When not fighting wildfires, fire crews assist with local fuel management activities.