To local residents who drive by the brand new headquarters station of King County Fire District No. 2, it looks ready for engines and aid cars, firefighters and paramedics of the Burien/Normandy Park Fire Department.
But despite appearances, this state-of-the-art station at 900 SW 146th Street – which, with major upgrades including larger engine bays and in-house training facilities, should meet fire district needs for the next 50 years – still isn’t operational.
And the delay is frustrating for the crews that are ready to move from their outdated and undersized facility at the corner of SW 151st St. and 8th Ave. S.
“We’re eager to move in,” Chief Mike Marrs told The B-Town Blog during a tour of the new headquarters station this week.
Construction of new Station 28 started in late summer 2011, with completion and occupancy anticipated for late July or early August last year. And as late as early summer, the project remained on time and on budget.
But then came the glitches.
First things were slowed by about two months due to problems with Seattle City Light. The fire district “made all changes requested [by City Light] and then they made more changes,” Marrs told The B-Town Blog at the time.
These included changing the location of the electric meter, changing the size of two manhole vaults underground, and then changing the size of wiring in the vaults.
The delay caused by problems with City Light had a domino effect. Without power the electrician couldn’t finish his work, and until that was done electrical systems couldn’t be tested and heating and ventilation systems couldn’t be installed.
Completion of construction was pushed back to mid-fall 2012.
By late last fall, however, the new fire station looked ready for occupancy – from the outside looking in. New construction-related problems that prevented it becoming operational had surfaced:
At this time, Marrs can’t say when the station will be ready for occupancy. Nor does the department have plans for moving in until the required changes are made. “We don’t know how disruptive it would be for the firefighters,” he said.
However, these setbacks “shouldn’t affect the final budget at all,” Marrs continued. “The contractor is in a position of contract that deals with liquidity, which comes to $1,000 a day for them not to have us in the station.”
Bayley Construction of Mercer Island is general contractor. The contractor is responsible for all work by subcontractors and materials provided by vendors.
Bays Fit All Fire Engines
The most striking feature of the new headquarters station is its tall, glassed doors, behind which are bays to accommodate any fire engine, aid car or other response vehicle in any slot – including the department’s ladder truck, which currently must be parked away from downtown – except for one space that accommodates an aid car only.
“Until now we had to design all our fire trucks around our bays in the old station,” Marrs noted. The new station will enable the department to buy trucks that fit its needs rather than fit undersized parking space.
Another important feature of the new station is dedicated training areas, both on the second floor along each side of the engine bays and in the back of the building with access from the outside.
While they don’t use real fire in the building, unheated smoke can be used to simulate actual conditions, a narrow window lets firefighters practice getting someone out through a small opening, and the hose tower doubles as a drill tower.
The parking area is large enough to practice cutting apart a car on its side or top to extricate accident victims.
Inside the bay area, training facilities allow simulated rescues from manholes and electrical vaults, rappelling, and shooting a rope line from the mezzanine to an opposite balcony.
Generator, Bunks and More
With lessons learned from recent widespread power outages, the new station has a 250 kilowatt diesel generator that will provide 100 percent backup electrical power for the facility plus another 50 percent.
The generator holds enough fuel to operate continuously for 24 hours, and diesel can be transferred from the adjacent fuel tank with the capacity to keep both the station powered and all engines and aid cars running for a week.
In addition to these features, the station includes:
- 12 sleeping rooms and 48 closets for on-duty firefighters and paramedics, with individual room alerts so only personnel to be dispatched will be awakened when alarms come in, and three entrances from this area to the engine bay for quick access.
- Two larger sleeping rooms are for battalion chiefs and engine commanders so they can check on a call by computer and see which units and crew are being dispatched
- A decontamination area just off the engine bay for cleanup after injury accidents and incidents involving hazardous chemicals, with an industrial washer and dryer.
- A large kitchen has two stoves – and an integrated system that shuts off both gas and electricity when an alarm comes in if firefighters are cooking.
- A fitness room will include treadmills, a weight machine, an elliptical trainer, and a stationary bicycle.
- A study area with computer access for continuing education required for Emergency Medical Technician certification and review of new fire fighting techniques.
- Administrative offices on one floor for improved communication between chiefs, instructors and training officers.
Below are more photos of the new station (click images to see larger versions/slideshow):