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Clark County Fire & Rescue plans new station as Ridgefield outgrows fire facilities

RIDGEFIELD — Ridgefield’s growth is pushing the city south, and a new fire station may soon follow.

Architects are drawing a design for a new Clark County Fire & Rescue station at 3215 S. Hillhurst Road. The station, between 12,000 and 14,000 square feet, would replace Station 24 at 117 N. Third Ave.

The downtown station would be closed and likely sold.

Fire Chief John Nohr said that Station 24, believed to have opened in 1941 and 4,500 square feet, no longer meets the size and safety needs of a modern fire station. When he started as chief in May 2016, Nohr was tasked with developing a strategic plan to manage increased growth in the 160-square-mile district that covers northwestern Clark County — including the cities of La Center, Ridgefield and Woodland.

Nohr said one of the first ideas he heard was the need to replace the downtown station. After some research, he quickly agreed.

The station, which holds four dormitory rooms, lacks an overhead sprinkler system and would not be able to withstand a major earthquake.

“You couldn’t build a station like this today,” Nohr said Monday while giving a visitor a tour of Station 24.

The 1.92-acre property where the new station is planned was previously owned by the Ridgefield School District and is surrounded by the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex and a school campus. The sports complex and campus, along with housing developments, have all opened in the area within the last few years.

The fire district agreed to purchase the land from the school district in April for roughly $100,000.

“We need a station in this area,” fire district Commissioner Larry Bartel said. “It’s a perfect place.”

Bartel, who abstained from the vote to finalize the purchase, has a personal connection to the property. His family previously owned farmland at the site, including land now occupied by both the fire and school districts, for more than 100 years. They still own land in the area, and several family members live on it in separate houses.

Bartel served in the fire district for 33 years, including 27 years as chief. His father, Bill Bartel, helped start what then was called Fire District 12 in 1962.

Larry Bartel recalled an effort by the district in the early 1980s to purchase a new fire engine. Because of the downtown station’s size, some engines could not fit inside either of the station’s two bays. Engines housed in the station must carefully back in from a narrow downtown street.

The new station would include four bays — that would not require trucks to back in — along with six dormitory rooms. It will also be better able to house modern equipment, which now includes services such as technical rescue, Nohr said.

On a typical day, 11 firefighters and one battalion chief are on duty throughout the district. The district has seven engines, two ladder trucks, three water tenders and three brush units. It also uses a fire boat, rescue boat and rescue raft for water operations.

As Ridgefield has expanded, the areas where the department deploys its resources have also shifted.

“You have to think of the system as a whole and, ‘How does each station work in sync?’ ” Nohr said. “During the day, we’re moving the chess pieces around a lot.”

Nohr said the strategic advantage of the new location outweighs potential challenges, including the fact that the downtown station is closer to bodies of water where rescues are sometimes needed.

“You have to weigh that out,” Nohr said.

Nohr hopes the new fire station will be built sometime in the next three years. JohanssonWing Architects in Battle Ground is creating the designs, which are expected in a few months.

Then comes the obstacle of financing.

The station is expected to cost $400 per square foot, Nohr said. For a 12,000-square-foot station, that adds up to $4.8 million.

“Some fire stations are overbuilt,” Nohr said. “We’ve been really conscious about what we need.”

The fire district hopes to include the plan in a future bond measure.

No one has expressed opposition to the plan, Bartel said. “Then again, not everyone has heard about it,” he added.

The other option would be to draw from the district’s general fund, Nohr said, which would prolong the project and limit its ability to purchase fire equipment.

If a fire station does rise on South Hillhurst Road, it will bear a familiar name. District officials told Bartel earlier this year the new fire station will be named in memory of his late father.

“I was really honored for my dad for all of the work he did for the district in his life,” Bartel said.



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