BX-Swan Lake fire chief Bill Wacey suits up in the new change room

BX-Swan Lake fire chief Bill Wacey suits up in the new change room

New era dawns at BX hall

Open house showcases $1.5 million renovations to BX Fire Department Saturday, June 11

A tribute to the history of the BX is being made by the community’s current-day heroes.

The final touches are being added to the $1.5 million expansion of the BX-Swan Lake Fire Department. With it, Barnard’s Express will take a prominent spot at the new space. A three-dimensional stagecoach and horse sign is being designed to adorn the building. The history of the BX will also be depicted on a special plaque inside the building.

“Most people around town here don’t even know what BX stands for,” said fire chief Bill Wacey.

Formed in 1861, Barnard’s Express (BX) was one of the original ranches of the Interior and one of the oldest, largest, and longest running stagecoach companies in North America.

Wacey wants to help preserve some of that history at the community’s fire department and invites the community to check it out at the open house Saturday, June 11 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There, residents can get up close and personal with the space, gear and trucks of the new hall – which is just over double the size of the old hall.

Now when an emergency strikes, the volunteer firefighters aren’t rubbing elbows with the fire trucks in the truck bay as they get geared up.

“Where the trucks are literally a foot away from us,” said Wacey.

A dedicated turnout gear change room gives the members a safe, roomier space to get suited up for an emergency.

And there’s more room for the trucks with a new bay on site, versus the old option of storing vehicles in a member’s garage.

“We have vehicles that have been off site because we didn’t have space,” said Wacey of ‘Hall #2.’

Firefighters aren’t coming back from blazing fires to a blazing hot hall either.

“We now have air conditioning for the first time,” said Wacey, whose office usually sat around 40C in the summer.

The chief also no longer has to share his office with the deputy chief, assistant chief, secretary treasurer, captains and lieutenants, who have their own space.

“There were six of us that shared that office space,” said Wacey, who is enjoying the extra privacy for meetings, phone calls and getting office work done.

And more than one member can have a shower at a time – plus the ladies have their own shower.

“We had one, now we have three,”

A massive meeting room upstairs allows the firefighters to train properly and it will also be used by staff at the Regional District of North Okanagan.

“The meeting room is about two-and-a-half times the size that we had before,” said Wacey, adding that a small fitness room is being considered to add to the space. “It doubles as an off-site training ground for the regional district.”

Internally, there’s also been a technical  expansion of equipment and internet which allows the department to teach classes inhouse.

“Before we were borrowing lap tops and the wifi wasn’t strong enough.”

All LED and motion-detected lighting also saves time, money and energy.

“We’re not having to chase down light switches,” said Wacey.

The entire department, including Wacey, is pleased with the new space, especially after living out of a trailer for nine months.

“I’ve been living out of that and a port-a-potty – 30 people and one port-a-potty.”