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Community builds training tower: Newfoundlanders pitch in with time and talent

With a little ingenuity, a lot of determination and the generosity of myriad Newfoundlanders, a new training tower and grounds for the Greater Conception Bay North region is near completion and is expected to be functional by spring.

January 21, 2008  By Robert Lynch and Robert Seymour

The new training tower in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, will serve nine fire departments in the region.

When the Newfoundland government expropriated the land on which the Harbour Grace Fire Department’s training ground stood in 2000, firefighters from nine departments were left with nowhere to train and no money to rebuild.

With a little ingenuity, a lot of determination and the generosity of myriad Newfoundlanders, a new training tower and grounds for the Greater Conception Bay North region is near completion and is expected to be functional by spring.

Almost eight years after the province took the land in Harbour Grace for a new highway, construction began in May on a three-storey training tower in Bay Roberts. To get the project started, Chief Clarence Russell and planning committee of The Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department applied for a $25,000 grant from the province. Several unsuccessful trips were made to see provincial officials but a change of government in 2003 and subsequent approval of the grant opened doors for the training ground.

“With today’s firefighting techniques and with new members coming into the various departments we felt the need to have a training facility to serve the needs of not only our fire department but also the other eight departments in Conception Bay North,” Chief Russell said.


“We believe that with neighbouring departments combining their efforts into one central training site the facility will meet the various needs and be of benefit to all involved. Also, with departments getting more and more into specialized training we will be able to provide an all in one site to practise the techniques.”

Approval of the grant application was a great boost to firefighters but it was only half the battle as $25,000 wasn’t enough to complete the project. Knowing the importance of training for first responders, businesses from all nine municipalities in Conception Bay North donated time, talent and assets. 

The 65 metre by 130 metre parcel of land for the training ground was donated by Bay Roberts businessman Gerald French. The survey was done by Norman and Parsons Surveyors of Bay Roberts at no charge. Shawn Batten of Shawn Ventures Limited prepared the initial site free of charge. Concord Paving of  Carbonear, Nfld., donated the clearing of the lot surrounding the building.

The nine fire departments in the area were approached for donations of any kind to help offset the cost of construction. The Victoria Volunteer Fire Department donated $200 in cash and the Carbonear department threw in $1,000. Salmon Cove Perry’s Cove Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Rossiter donated the use of a tamper and enough scaffolding to do all work involved. The Harbour Grace Volunteer Fire Brigade, through local company North Atlantic Refining Inc., donated the steel i-beams for the floors.

The Spaniards Bay Volunteer Fire Department donated two loads of stone. The Cupids Volunteer Fire Department provided a couple of members to help clear land, lift concrete blocks and backfill foundation. The Upper Island Cove Volunteer Fire Department measured a two-level deck for the back of  the site and is supplying material and labour to finish it. Owner Lamonte Stagg of RV repair shop Recreational Parts and Accessories donated his forklift for the lifting of the first-storey block.

 Contractor Bert Snow donated a Kabota tractor for a couple of days for site clean up. Boyd Caravan of Boyd Caravan Trucking in North River donated two 16-metre containers to be used for confined-space training and delivered them to the site from St. John’s at no cost. All block work on the building was done by Piercey’s Masonry of Cupids while Dawes Concrete Products Ltd. in Bay Roberts supplied the blocks. The form work for the foundation was supplied by Murrin Co. Ready Mix and roof trusses were supplied by Riverside Trusses, both of Spaniards Bay. Also, the town of Bay Roberts donated about $2,500 in work and materials.

Some businesses were paid for supplying materials and labour and were happy to be part of the project.

Bay Roberts Mayor Glenn Littlejohn applauds the firefighters’ efforts to work up enough money and talent to build the training tower.

“Volunteer fire departments throughout Conception Bay North are first responders to so many calls for assistance and are involved in such a wide variety of situations that training is essential and we have to provide a site for them to be ready to respond,” he said. “We turn to these volunteers and they are there for us a moment’s notice. We must be sure they are trained to respond safely and to return safely  to there own homes.”

Cupids Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jeremy Hall said having the training facility within a five minute drive will probably encourage his members to attend more training sessions and therefore provide better service.

Robert Lynch, a 20-year veteran of the Harbour Grace Volunteer Fire Brigade, was the town’s citizen of the year for 2006. He served twice as chief and  twice as assistant chief.

Robert Seymour is an eight-year veteran of the Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department. He is the department’s representative to the town’s disaster planning committee and is completing the department’s website,

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