With a promise of an economic spinoff for Merritt and a state-of-the-art firefighting facility, the new $4.7-million provincial wildfire-training centre is now open for business.
Forests Minister Steve Thomson opened the building - which also houses offices for the Merritt Fire Zone - along with Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart and Merritt Mayor Susan Roline on Thursday.
Speaking with The Daily News afterward, Thomson said the event attracted everyone from ranchers to politicians and forestry personnel.
"Everybody understand the benefits that having this training centre in Merritt will bring to the community," he said.
Thomas said the centre delivers top-notch programs for the entire province and allows recruits and veteran forestry firefighters to learn new techniques and hone existing skills.
These personnel will spend time in Merritt, which benefits everyone.
"I think it's a very important day for the wildfire program and the community," he said.
Kamloops Fire Centre manager Steve Schell said the building is home to the expanded Merritt Fire Zone offices, which monitor and respond to fires within one of the busiest fire regions in the province.
The facility, which is located near the Merritt airport, also acts as a base of operations for out-of-province firefighters, he said.
The 14,300-square-foot building has space for 58 staff, equipment storage and three classrooms. Construction crews broke ground in October 2012 and the project was finished at the end of August.