Replacement fire station construction on schedule, budget

By Andy Matarrese, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

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The project to replace two of the Vancouver Fire Department’s 10 stations is on budget and on schedule. According to city and district staff, the work should reduce emergency response times in west Vancouver when the buildings are occupied.

City Facilities Capital Projects Manager Jon Sears told the city council Monday that the project is on schedule, but the starting date for operations at the new stations will depend on how easy it is to equip, furnish and connect to the county emergency dispatch center.

Construction should be complete by October, and the stations are expected to “go live” in early December, he said.

The city’s budget for the new stations is $15 million: $2.2 million for buying the property; $1.2 million in design and other soft costs, such as sales taxes; $11 million in construction costs; and $600,000 in contingency funds. About $5.1 million had been spent as of last week, Sears said.

The city is paying for the new buildings out of its savings, and didn’t have to borrow money, Sears said.

The new Station 1 is under construction in Uptown Village at 2607 Main St., on the corner of Main Street and West Fourth Plain Boulevard. It replaces a facility at 900 W. Evergreen Blvd., on the downtown’s western edge.

The new station’s entrance will have memorial for firefighters killed on duty. Although not part of the new building, an artist will paint a mural commemorating the department’s 150th anniversary, which is this year, on a wall across the street south.

“Essentially, we have the entire building footprint completed,” Sears told the council. “The next stage you’ll see is the veneer of the brick around the living quarters side.”

Station 2

The new Station 2 will sit at the southwest corner of Norris Road and Fourth Plain Boulevard. The area is adjacent to Warrior Field. Design plans were able to preserve a large bigleaf maple tree on the lot.

Corp Inc. Construction of Salem, Ore., is building both stations simultaneously, but the plans put Station 1 a few steps ahead for efficiency. Interface Engineering and Mackenzie designed the stations.

Both buildings include engine bays, work space and living quarters, plus some space for community meetings.

The new Station 2 sits in the heart of the fire department’s busy area for calls. It replaces a station on the other side of the freeway at 400 W. 37th St.

The city and department chose the locations for the new stations after working with a consultant who helped chart response times and call volumes, Deputy Fire Chief Dog Koellermeier said in an interview.

“Station 1 and 2 were the primary stations they looked at, as far as our ability to serve the west side” and Fourth Plain Boulevard corridor,” he said.

Best practices have stations serve a core call volume area with a dedicated response time radius around the building. Because Station 1 is somewhat tucked against the river as far as call volumes, he said, it isn’t very efficient.

Therefore, the department is moving Station 1 north where it can better serve a larger area, and Station 2 is moving east to close the gap between stations 1 and 3.

The current fire stations have been listed as surplus property, making them eligible for possible sale once they are vacated. Sears and Koellermeier said there are no set plans for the decades-old buildings yet.

Koellermeier said the new fire stations have an expected 50-year life span, based on 30-year population growth estimates.

Both locations were chosen with traffic in mind, he said. Still, the stations will have signals to stop traffic and allow emergency vehicles to leave, and an apparatus will have control over nearby traffic lights. That’s on top of the traffic signal controls firefighters have in their vehicles.