It has been a long wait, but Creston now offers a complete range of funeral services. A crematorium built by G.F. Oliver Funeral Chapel Ltd. opened quietly in December on Davis Drive property east of Highway 21.
“The biggest step was to acquire the land, which was owned by the Town of Creston,” manager-shareholder Dennis Kemle said last week. “This has been a two-year project, but it has been worth the effort. Mayor Ron Toyota and the town staff have been supportive from the beginning.”
The quarter-million-dollar investment means the deceased no longer have to be transported to Cranbrook for cremation, saving on time and transportation costs.
Inside what looks like a neat and tidy garage is a natural gas-fired cremation chamber. The chamber — six feet wide, seven feet high and 16 feet long — reaches temperatures of 1,600-1,800 C. A sophisticated ventilation and retort system results in an ultra-clean burn — only a slight amount of heat and moisture escapes from the chimney.
“There are a lot of benefits to having a crematorium here in Creston,” Kemle said. “It eliminates travel on dangerous winter highways and we can provide a better service to the families who have chosen cremation.”
In December, when the facility opened, Kemle said 19 of the 22 funerals included cremations, much higher than the 58 per cent national rate and the B.C. rate of 81 per cent.
Historically, only about two thirds of the deceased in the Creston Valley have been cremated, largely because of lower burial costs than in larger cities, he added.
The building was constructed under the supervision of contractor Glenn Guthrie, who is a shareholder in the crematorium and funeral home.
“We wanted a building that would show there is some pride here,” he said. “Most people will drive by and not even know what the building is.”
The funeral business, and especially crematoriums, are closely regulated by the provincial government and opening the facility wasn’t without its stresses, Guthrie admitted.
“It took a ton of time and energy,” he said.
Provincial regulations for crematoriums changed during the construction process. When the retort chamber was installed in the finished building, Guthrie was told an engineer had to sign off on the construction.
“We had a representative from the supplier from Oklahoma sitting here waiting to test and demonstrate the equipment and I was in touch with the BC Consumer Protection Authority and the BC Safety Authority in Victoria trying to get the approvals necessary,” he said.
Fortunately, a local engineer was available to inspect the project on short notice and the tests went ahead.
“This is a tremendous benefit for local families,” Toyota said. “The cost and convenience factors are important. And it’s good for our economy, keeping more money here at home.”