When it comes to historic resources, it’s all about preservation and city staff has come up with a plan to protect St. Albert’s grain elevators from fire.
On Monday, city council unanimously approved a fire mitigation strategy that includes the use of fire retardant paint on the interior and exterior of the buildings, gravel fire buffers around each elevator and expanded smoke detection and security monitoring to protect the elevators.
“We have very unique heritage gems right in the heart of our city and I think we need to do everything possible to protect them,” Coun. Carol Watamaniuk said at the meeting.
According to Chris Jardine, the city’s general manager of community and protective services, the presence of tourists coupled with the elevators’ age and framework makes them particularly susceptible to fire.
“It is just the nature of grain elevators,” said Jardine. “They are old, they’re wood … lots of flammable materials, so it’s always a concern.”
Both elevators were built in the early 20th century.
The project, reviewed by the city’s fire and engineering departments and the Arts and Heritage Foundation (AHF), will cost $261,812.
The city and the AHF will use existing money and grants to pay for the improvements.
The city approved a fire suppression strategy in 2006 following a 2004 provincial report on preserving Alberta’s grain elevators. That report called for the installation of sprinkler systems in the elevators, but Jardine said the sprinkler systems compromised the heritage value of the buildings, were too costly and didn’t prevent fires from occurring.
“A sprinkler system is reactionary … whereas with the fire mitigation you do a number of things like fire-retardant paint to actually prevent the fire from happening in the first place,” Jardine explained.
The AHF will manage and implement the strategy on behalf of the city and use any leftover money for the on-going rehabilitation of the elevators.
According to AHF executive director Paul Moulton, the grain elevators are part of a long-term scheme that works in conjunction with the city’s downtown redevelopment and tourism plans.
“As we’re looking at all these issues around downtown redevelopment, tourism branding … we just feel that the grain elevator park, as it develops out, will be a significant part of that,” Moulton said.
He said a comprehensive plan that outlines the future of the city’s historic sites, including the elevators, will be presented to council on Monday.