Clark County Fire District 6 crews stationed in Salmon Creek have a sleek new facility equipped with modern technologies to call home while on the job.
Staff moved into the new station at 1119 N.E. 136th St. in late March. The site adjoins the old Station 63 at 1200 N.E. 134th St.
Taxpayers approved bonds to fund the multimillion-dollar project in 2018. Nearly two years after purchasing a couple of properties in Salmon Creek, the fire district started construction in September of that year.
The original construction budget, which didn’t include the costs of purchasing the properties and wetland mitigation, was $8.9 million, said Chief Kristan Maurer. The final cost was about 5 percent more than that initial estimate, Maurer said.
“We stayed pretty close to the budget, which is great for a project of that size. And it only took about 18 months to get everyone in there,” the chief said.
In asking residents to foot the bill, officials said population growth in the communities that Station 63 serves — Salmon Creek, Mount Vista and the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds — was a driving factor behind the upgrade.
The fire chief said her district’s call volume has increased by about 30 percent in five years. The same staffing level has been maintained over that time period.
In 2009, Fire District 6 crews responded to 5,391 calls for service, according to data provided by the agency. Ten years later, they responded to 8,828 calls for service. The fire chief said she anticipates there will be well over 9,000 calls this year.
The station was built to last 50 years. It was constructed to be expanded in the future, so more engine companies can be added, Maurer said. Those additional companies likely will be needed due to Clark County’s population growth, she said.
The new two-story station is approximately 17,000 square feet and is able to withstand a magnitude 9 earthquake. The old station, which was built in the 1970s, was about 6,000 square feet and seismically unsound.
None of the fire district’s facilities were what officials refer to as “essential,” meaning they could not withstand earthquakes or other natural disasters, before Station 63 was replaced and Station 62 in the Felida area was upgraded.
There is one more project the district hasn’t finished: a training tower, an unfurnished steel building in which fire personnel can undergo live fire training. The empty pit where the old Station 63 once stood marks its future location. It’s scheduled to be completed on July 16. In the past, training was scheduled with the help of other fire departments in the county.
Rather than keep the old station, it made more sense to pare down the number of facilities operated by the fire district. In doing so, the old station was used until the day staff moved into the new station. And before the old station was torn down in April, crews used it for training.
Currently, the new station is housing the fire district’s training staff consisting of three captains. “It’s wonderful. It’s a real gift from the community,” said Assistant Chief Shawn Newberry, sitting in the new training room on Tuesday. “It’s more efficient for pretty much everything.”
The station is also home to an engine company — three to four firefighters and a battalion chief who runs the shift.
Upgrades to the station included making it energy efficient, individual sleeping rooms for staff in lieu of dormitory-style sleeping quarters, and a modern alert system that taps out crews to calls using internet protocol technology rather than radio broadcasts.
“That decreases response times to our citizens and increases their safety,” Maurer said.
The individual rooms, which are shared by shifts, are on the second floor of the station, near a kitchen that looks like it’s fit for a chef. There are lights that flash red and speakers in the room that alert firefighters to calls for service. If a firefighter isn’t assigned to a specific call, the alarms aren’t activated and won’t interrupt their sleep, said Battalion Chief Kevin Todd.
Firefighter safety is also important to the chief, and implementing the newest industry practices should help protect them against issues like cancer and heart disease, two leading causes of death within the fire service. The new station has a workout space so staff can stay fit.
The station is also compartmentalized into “clean” and “dirty” sections. Equipment like fire engines that give off diesel exhaust are separated from the living quarters.