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West Kelowna winery plan would require high-rise training for firefighters

This is the redesigned Goats Peak Winery tower with pods offering views in three different directions.
This is the redesigned Goats Peak Winery tower with pods offering views in three different directions.
Image Credit: Submitted/City of West Kelowna

A proposed lighthouse for the Goats Peak Winery in West Kelowna has now been amended to be a tower with three squarish “look-out pods.”

But, because the plan is still for an eight-storey structure, West Kelowna Fire and Rescue will have to retrain its entire force to highrise firefighting standards if the structure is approved by city council.

“This is a leap that will require a different set of equipment, a different set of firefighting techniques and, therefore, a different set of training for our people,” department chief Jason Brolund told iNFOnews.ca. “It’s one of those things where, when we move into high-rise firefighting, we need to have the entire department prepared for it when the first building opens up.”

That doesn’t matter whether it’s a 40-storey high-rise residential tower or what is essentially an eight-storey viewing platform.

Right now, the department is trained to battle blazes in buildings of up to six storeys. Once a building is seven storeys or taller it’s classed as a highrise and requires a whole different training regime and equipment.

Highrises have to have firefighter elevators, stairways, water supplies and more. While no new fire truck will be required, since trucks can’t reach to the top of high-rises anyways, other ancillary equipment will be needed for the fire department.

Brolund hasn’t estimated what that cost might be and would not speculate on whether council will ask the developer to contribute towards that cost if it agrees to the height request.

Goats Peak Winery applied to build a winery last fall along with a proposed eight-storey lighthouse as a landmark entry to the city at its new vineyard near the Okanagan Connector junction with Highway 97.

READ MORE: 'Iconic' lighthouse proposed for West Kelowna's southern entrance ridiculed by councillor

This was the lighthouse design originally proposed.
This was the lighthouse design originally proposed.
Image Credit: Submitted/City of West Kelowna

City council supported the winery itself and referred it to the Agricultural Land Commission, which has yet to rule on that part of the application.

But council deferred a decision on the height variance, asking for a more detailed design and public feedback on the lighthouse concept.

READ MORE: If not a lighthouse for West Kelowna, then what?

A new application for the height variance went to the city’s Agricultural Advisory Commission earlier this week. It asked for the same height but had a different design for the tower.

“The design feature of the building includes look-out pods that offer a different viewing experience in each pod, directing views to Okanagan Mountain Park, Mount Boucherie, and across the lake to Kelowna’s wine district,” states a staff report to the agriculture committee. “The applicant feels the building’s unique design and height will become a landmark for the City of West Kelowna and create a destination for tourists to visit.”

That may be but, “it’s a fine line between unique and an eyesore,” committee member Geoffrey Oliver said during the meeting.

While he recognized that a tall structure might attract tourists, the same could be accomplished by keeping the winery to the allowed two-storey maximum and putting a patio on top.

“At the top of that hill you don’t need to go higher to have a great view,” he said.

Oliver made a motion to oppose the height variance but that was lost due to a tie vote amongst the four members of the committee attending the meeting.

He ended up voting in favour of the variance just so the committee could make a recommendation to council.

From Brolund’s perspective, preparing for high-rises is just the next step in the growth of the city.

“We know the direction our city will go eventually will be higher, so it’s something that will need to be done,” he said. “It’s all part of the growing process, not only for our city, but for our fire department.”

No date has yet been announced for when the application will go to city council.

This is the location of the new Goats Peak Winery.
This is the location of the new Goats Peak Winery.
Image Credit: Submitted/City of West Kelowna

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