Built to last: Valley Fire’s new essential services building

The Spokane Valley Fire Department unveiled its new administration building with a low key ceremony Monday morning attended mostly by department employees and fire commissioners.

The building, which was first discussed in 2001, has been a long time coming. The two-story brick building sits next to Station 8, tucked between a set of railroad tracks and a mobile home park just west of Pines Road and Mansfield Avenue. A piece of steel beam from the World Trade Center was installed in the foyer during a Sept. 11 commemoration ceremony in the fall.

Multiple sites for the new building were considered, said Deputy Chief Larry Rider, but the department decided to use land left over after construction of Station 8 in 2004.

Construction of the $3.7 million building started in 2011 and was finished last week, though the landscaping and parking lot striping remain to be done. The project was paid for by a voter-approved levy lid lift in 2007 that also paid for a new Station 9 in 2008, the Greenacres Fire Station in 2010 and a new Station 6, which is under construction.

“We really do appreciate the support we got from the community to make this happen,” Fire Chief Mike Thompson said during Monday’s ceremony. “We have a great new facility.”

The building at 2120 N. Wilbur Road, was designed to be an essential services building that can operate after a natural disaster. “This building is built to sustain the worst,” said Rider. “This building can run without electricity.”

Several rooms, including one in the basement that houses exercise equipment, have been wired for use as emergency coordination centers. “We can turn those into ECCs in 20 minutes,” Rider said.

The building was designed to prevent vehicles from driving up to it. Historic fire hydrants dating back to 1949 line the front sidewalk instead of less attractive bollards. The front office staff is separated from the lobby by a counter and locked doors and there is an alarm button if needed. Motion sensors are installed throughout the building.

The building also comes with a new computer server room and a secured evidence room. Rider pointed out that firefighters collect medical data on patients that has to be kept private. “We have a lot of information that has to be protected,” he said.

With the new server room, the department can now provide its own computer file backup at the old administration offices at Station 1 on East Sprague instead of paying someone to do it, Rider said. “It was expensive,” he said.

The public will be able to use a large conference room that will also be used for fire commissioner meetings. There is a central room on each floor with a copier and printer. The department is moving away from each person having a printer to save money on toner, Rider said. “We had 35 printers,” he said. “Now we have two.”

Some of the old administration offices at Station 1 will be used for file storage, which the department has needed for years. The offices in the basement of the station, already wired for computer and radio access, will be left alone so they can be used in an emergency. “What we think we should do is lock the doors and keep the dust bunnies out,” Rider said.

Rider, who oversaw construction of the building, said he’s pleased the department was able to use local companies and provide local jobs while still paying a price below the department’s estimate. The end result will serve the department and the community for decades, he said. “This is a hundred-year building.”

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