Fire Station 6 resuscitated after lengthy closure

Collaborative effort, grant help bring Burton-area firehouse back into service




Noting there are few happy endings in government cutbacks, neighbor Mary Elkin on Sunday night proclaimed that the reopening of Fire Station 6 “says a lot about the great city we live in.”

Closed last December to save money, the Vancouver station reopened Monday morning.

On Sunday evening, nearly 100 gathered to celebrate.

“We are full of joy,” Elkin said. “It’s been a long struggle to get this station reopened and it’s taken a lot of people working together.”

Elkin is president of Friends of Fire Station 6. She lives just 12 blocks from the Burton-area station with her husband, John, and son Robert, 6, who was enjoying fire department stickers at the event and offered, “I like to be called Robby.”

“It doesn’t make any sense to close a fire station,” Elkin said before the evening’s speeches. “That’s one of the things our taxes should definitely pay for.”

A two-year $2.3 million federal grant was a key ingredient in allowing the station to reopen. But Elkin said there is no need to apologize for taking federal dollars, explaining, “Hey, that’s our money.”

The station is at 3216 N.E. 112th Ave., near the border of four neighborhoods.

Mayor Tim Leavitt, in stark opening comments, said the city has cut $30.6 million during the recent tough times. He said the station was reopened because of the federal grant, work by neighbors, a contract agreement with the Vancouver Firefighters Union and an open-mindedness by city council members. But he said the two-year grant is a “stopgap” measure and there is no guarantee another closure could not occur.

Then, Leavitt read a declaration, saying the station is “open and in service to our community.”

At 6:07 p.m., the fire bell rang, the station door opened and Fire Engine 6, lights flashing, rumbled some 50 feet into the crowd with Firefighter Carl Svendsen at the wheel and Capt. Eric Giacchino riding shotgun. The crowd roared as the big rig parked.

Vancouver Fire Chief Joe Molina, in dress uniform, thanked all those who worked to reopen the station. He noted the cooperativeness of the firefighters union and asked union president Mark Johnston to speak.

With the station open again, Johnston said, “I sleep better at night.” He said he worries about the protection of neighbors and the safety of firefighters and medics.

“We’re going to fill a void,” said Capt. Doug Murray, top officer at the station. “We’re excited to be back and provide service for the Burton area.”

Murray has been with the department for 28 years and said the station has a crew of nine.

Refreshments included a cake shaped like a fire helmet and cupcakes by Simply Sweets.

Elkin said she was buoyed by what “working together in a respectful manner can accomplish.” She gave particular praise to City Councilman Bart Hansen and Molina.

She might have spoken for many neighbors when saying, “Tonight the healing process has begun.”

DAVE KERN: or 360-735-4534