The beginning of the end is here for Fresno’s fire-station-in-a-house.
It’s another sign of the rebuilding of Chief Kerri Donis’ department.
The City Council recently approved the purchase of a small lot on Shaw Avenue west of Highway 99 for a new home for Station 18.
This lot, combined with a next-door lot already owned by the city, gives officials enough room to build a station specifically designed for firefighters.
Station 18 will then say goodbye to the city-owned suburban house that over the past decade has been shelter for a fire engine and its company.
While the timeline for any construction is still being discussed, the administration is firmly committed to significant investment in public safety, both now and in the future.
City of Fresno Communications Director Mark Standriff
“Things are going to continue to grow” west of 99, Donis says. “To have an engine in a better location for access and better response times is absolutely what’s best for the community.”
The ribbon-cutting is a ways off. Donis says Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s new budget includes money for the new station’s architectural plans. She hopes construction begins next year and everything is done by 2017.
Cost is still uncertain, but Donis expects the bill to be less than $4 million. She says there’s already $2.5 million from developer fees in the bank.
No pole. Sorry.
Fire Chief Kerri Donis on Station 18’s proposed new single-story home
The site on Shaw is a bit west of Bryan Avenue. That’s about a mile south of the current firehouse near the corner of Bullard and Grantland avenues.
Station 18 is a prime example of what happens when a housing boom meets a devastating recession.
Fresno’s growth late in the 20th century jumped 99 and began eating into farmland to the west. Developer enthusiasm remained largely unchecked early in this century.
Fire safety, of course, was a priority. City Hall put Station 18 in a tract house about a decade ago as a stop-gap measure. The thinking: Growth would continue, generating enough money in five years or so to fund a permanent station.
The Great Recession intervened. The economy and City Hall finances are perkier these days, but that only spotlighted another Station 18 challenge.
The fast-growing area west of Highway 99 and north of Clinton Avenue is called River West by Council Member Steve Brandau. The completion of Veterans Boulevard figures to spur even more growth and add to public safety challenges.
City officials had planned all along to build the permanent station on Shaw. But the site in City Hall’s hands was too small for a single-story station, much preferred by fire officials. Building a two-story station, on the other hand, was expensive.
The council’s decision on July 30 to buy the 36,507-square-foot lot for $192,000 solves everything. The money comes from unspent bond proceeds.
Donis says the new station will have three bays, even though Station 18 has only a fire engine. She says the other two bays will be home to reserve or special-use vehicles.
Donis gives much of the credit for Station 18’s bright future to the mayor and City Manager Bruce Rudd. The 2015-16 budget promises to add firefighters, create another two-company (engine and truck) station and systematically replace the department’s aging fleet over the next eight years.
Swearengin and Rudd are committed to a modernized fire department, Donis says.
Fresno, like many big cities of limited means, is no stranger to the expediency of temporary fire stations. Fresno, though, has shown a knack for stretching the definition of “temporary.” Donis says a doublewide trailer once served as stop-gap station for two-plus decades.
Station 18 in its current site serves the public well, Donis says. But, she adds, “it’s a house.” In other words, get real.
“We don’t need to do that anymore,” the chief says.