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Alex Munro's name will be on new Valleycliffe fire hall

However, it will officially be called Squamish Fire Hall No. 1 for operational purposes.

District of Squamish council has made a decision in favour of putting a Squamish pioneer’s name on the new Valleycliffe fire hall.

On Sept. 27, council voted unanimously in favour of attaching Munro's name to the new Valleycliffe fire hall. However, they did not specify where on the building it would go, and, for operational purposes, it will be officially referred to as Squamish Fire Hall No. 1.

Janice DesJardins, the granddaughter of Alex Munro, told The Squamish Chief she was disappointed with the motion. 

"It should not be known as the Squamish Fire Hall No. 1 for clarity," said Janice DesJardins. “It should be known as the Alex Munro Fire Hall No. 1."

Council’s decision on Tuesday occurred after DesJardins declared her outrage in August that, without any communication to her or her family, the District did not put Alex Munro's name on the new Valleycliffe fire hall.

The old Valleycliffe fire hall was dedicated to Munro back in 1999, and she thought the new fire hall would carry his name.

After she expressed her concerns this summer, municipal officials then reached out to DesJardins and said they would honour Munro's memory in the new fire hall.

In response to DesJardins' comments, the District issued a written statement to The Squamish Chief.

"Council discussed the issue of the fire hall naming and confirmed that the name 'Alex Munro' would be added to the building to continue to honour Chief Munro's contributions to the growth of Squamish's fire rescue service," wrote spokesperson Rachel Boguski. 

"The name will be added to the building in a similar-sized font as currently on the building. To reflect the facility's operational needs, it was also decided that the new fire hall would be referred to as Fire Hall No. 1 for operational clarity. A third motion was passed to review the Commemorative Naming Policy."

During the meeting on Tuesday, council made their decision after staff told them that keeping a fire hall name as a number is considered the best practice for fire halls.

"For operational safety reasons, it needs to be called Fire Hall No. 1 in terms of safety staff operational guideline recommendations," said CAO Linda Glenday. "That's our recommendation."

Fire Chief Bill Stoner said this was necessary because dispatchers across the province use a standardized system.

"Across the province…fire halls in every jurisdiction the E-Comm or dispatcher utilizes are called fire hall by a number," said Stoner. "They look after many fire departments across B.C. It's easier on their end to do it. And also going with that, the apparatus are named in accordance with the fire hall."

For example, he said, engines one and 11 would be tied to Fire Hall No. 1.

Though back in 1999, the District dedicated the Valleycliffe fire hall to Munro by giving it his namesake, staff said on Tuesday that Munro's name never made it onto the building — though there was a plaque — until a sign was placed on the facility in 2017 as part of the municipality's wayfinding project.

Glenday said it was unclear if it was an oversight that Munro's name never got on the building.

After some debate, council agreed Munro's name should go on the building, but said that operational needs should also be accommodated.

"I don't think that we need to insist that people call it the Alex Munro Fire Hall. The expectation here is that his name is on the fire hall," said Coun. John French. "We can continue best practice of referring to it in emergencies as Fire Hall No. 1, for clarity. And then we also have the heritage recognition continuing on the building."

The occasion was an opportunity to finally put the name on the building, Coun. Jenna Stoner said.

"I think now is it an opportunity for us to just kind of set that straight and put the name on the building," said Stoner. "I am not going to try and dictate where it should go. I think that can be done at a staff level."

Coun. Eric Andersen voiced his support for the motion and said Munro was a crucial figure in establishing the town's fire department, its cemetery and its diking systems. 

Some of these initiatives were funded out of Munro's own pocket, Andersen said.

Coun. Chris Pettingill said that it was important to recognize founding members of the community, but noted Indigenous peoples, who have been here longer, do not get the same recognition.

"We've heard reference to fathers of the community," said Pettingill. "But these are recent fathers of the community. And I don't want to diminish their contributions to the community. But there's a much longer history of peoples here whose names have not been recognized and, quite frankly, been erased, in many cases."


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