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News / Clark County News

Washougal mayor envisions fire-police joint facility that would be a ‘cornerstone for our community’

By Doug Flanagan, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: March 2, 2024, 6:10am
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WASHOUGAL — Washougal Mayor David Stuebe envisions the city of Washougal’s new fire and police station as a “command and operations” center that will allow police officers and firefighters to provide for residents’ safety from a central location.

“We’ve got a lot of growth going on,” Stuebe said during a Feb. 22 open house at Camas-Washougal Fire Department Station 43 in Washougal. “But it’s super important to have a foundation — and a fire station is a foundation. This is going to be a very important project. Our vision is to have a campus with our police force and fire department all coming together. I’m super excited about this, and the city is excited about it. This is a cornerstone for our community.”

An aesthetic fit

Representatives from MacKenzie Engineering, a Portland-based design firm, unveiled renderings and answered questions during the open house.

“We believe it’s really important that this building aesthetically, the appearance of it, really fits into your community,” said Monty Hill, with MacKenzie. The firm offered designs that show “all different types of roof forms, window placement and materials.”

City leaders announced a plan to build a new facility in December 2023, saying that the current fire station needs “immediate and total replacement.”

“The station that we’re in now is 50 years old,” Fire Chief Cliff Free said. “It was built in 1974 and has served us well, but it’s failing us. It’s served beyond its shelf life. It’s served beyond the intent to which it was designed.”

According to the city, the current building:

  • frequently floods with stormwater, causing structural damage and requiring sandbags as a preventative measure;
  • intermittently has sewage backups;
  • does not have a dedicated space for decontaminating clothing and gear after responding to a fire, risking firefighters’ health and safety due to exposure to carcinogens;
  • lacks an exhaust system for fire engines to maintain healthy air quality;
  • would not withstand a significant earthquake;
  • lacks space for additional firefighters/emergency medical services personnel;
  • lacks mandated safety clearances around equipment;
  • lacks facilities that fully comply with diversity, equity and inclusion guidelines;
  • lacks a private medical screening and treatment area;
  • does not meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards for public access;
  • lacks a public restroom.

The new fire station would adjoin the Washougal Police Department station to allow for shared use of break rooms, fitness facilities and a training/community room, according to the city.

“Our police station is a fantastic building. It’s in really good shape, just over 20 years old. The only issue we have is we are out of space,” Washougal Police Chief Wendi Steinbronn said. “I know that the fire department needs a new building, and that is the priority. I saw an opportunity, and I talked to Chief Free and Fire Marshal (Ron) Schumacher about, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had the ability to share space, and we wouldn’t need to build a whole new facility for the police department in 10 years?’”

“Now we need to move on, and we need to have a vision for the next 50 years,” Free said. “The building that you’re going to be seeing today is going to be the center of your emergency response for the next 50 years and needs to be sized appropriately to that. This is a big deal. It’s also kind of a transition for the model in Washougal, having a public safety complex.”

Washougal officials said they likely will send a bond question to voters in August.

If the bond passes, design work would begin immediately, with construction to follow, according to the city.

If the bond fails, leaders said, they will “use what we have as best we can, but eventually, we’ll have trouble responding to emergencies.”

For more information and to provide feedback on the city’s new fire and police station, visit www.cityofwashougal.us/774/Fire-Station-43-Replacement-and-Police-S.