Despite comments made at recent Spokane Valley City Council meetings, the issue of delayed response times from Spokane Valley Fire Department Station 1 is not new and has not been resolved, said Fire Chief Mike Thompson.
The station is on a one-way section of Sprague Avenue across from University City; firefighters heading east spend an additional one minute and 20 seconds responding to calls because they have to loop west before heading east, Thompson said. The department has been raising the issue in discussions with Spokane County and the city of Spokane Valley since 1999, he said.
Numerous letters have been sent over the years and at one point there were even discussions about buying land from the county before that plan fell through, Thompson said. When the city passed the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan that included a return to two-way traffic on Sprague, Thompson said he thought the issue had been resolved. “We were watching it closely,” he said. “I thought, OK, there’s a solution in sight.”
Thompson said he wishes he had brought up the delayed response time issue more publicly during the SARP discussion. “In retrospect I wish we had stood up and said something at that time,” he said. “We didn’t and here we are.”
This week Councilman Dean Grafos said that if there was a response time issue then the department should move the station. It’s not that simple, Thompson said.
The department would need to find a three-acre parcel of vacant land on Sprague east of University in order to be on a two-way section and Thompson said he doesn’t know of any available locations. It would also cost in the neighborhood of $3.5 million to buy land and build a new station. “Why should the department have to go back to the voters to pay for the relocation of Station 1 when we didn’t create the issue in the first place?” he said.
Thompson said he would continue to work with city staff to try and find a solution to the problem. One suggestion was to give the department control over the signal at University and Sprague and drive the wrong way on Sprague after triggering a red light for westbound traffic. But the distance isn’t short and there are too many driveways along Sprague, Thompson said. “It really creates a safety issue,” he said. “That’s a long way to go against traffic.”
Other discussions have involved creating a dedicated lane on Sprague for the fire department to use to travel east, but the high price tag is giving everyone pause. “It’s an expense neither one of us can afford at this time,” he said.
– Nina Culver