A new fire station at the foot of southwest Spokane’s Eagle Ridge development will open next month and should cut emergency response times for the Latah Valley in half, city officials say.
The Spokane Fire Department will open the temporary station at 115 W. Eagle Ridge Blvd., just off of U.S. Highway 195, in May. The department hopes to build a permanent Station 5 closer to Cheney-Spokane Road by 2020.
City leaders and residents have long said that southwest Spokane needs better fire service, but a lack of funds made a solution difficult, Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said. He said about 10,000 people live in the area served by the new station.
“This is wonderful for everyone who lives on the 195 corridor,” said Joann Pritchard, a board member of the Eagle Ridge homeowners association. She’s lived in the neighborhood since 1998 and has worked with other residents for several years to lobby for a fire station.
“It’s hard for me to believe it actually is happening,” she said.
Currently, southwest Spokane is served by Fire Station 4 on the east edge of Browne’s Addition. For residents of Eagle Ridge, that means response times of 12 to 14 minutes for medical emergencies and fires – far longer than the city’s stated goal of 8 1/2 minutes.
“It’s really difficult to hold your breath for 12 to 14 minutes,” Schaeffer said. With Station 5 in operation, those times should fall to four or five minutes for Eagle Ridge residents.
An engine with a two-person crew will work out of the station during the day, with round-the-clock staffing of two-person crews expected to start by late summer, once the location is certified for occupancy.
Firefighters at the new station will be paid with funds from a $2 million federal grant the city received earlier this year to add 12 firefighters citywide. Mayor David Condon said he was committed to funding those positions after the grant expires and would make it a budget priority.
The temporary station will go in a former office and information center for Newland Communities, the San Diego-based developer that built most of the Eagle Ridge community. Newland sold the building and 12 adjacent acres of woodland property to the city for about $500,000, Schaeffer said, with money from the city’s capital fund.
“This has been a dream come true for us,” Schaeffer said.
The city hasn’t decided what to do with the woodland property, but Schaeffer said options include selling it or making it a park.
The building already has ceilings high enough to accommodate a fire engine and a four-door garage. Minor modifications will be needed to add sprinklers, irrigation and furnishings, and make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Schaeffer estimated those costs at $225,000.
The total price tag will be under $1 million, far less than a new station typically costs. A project last year for a new station at the Spokane International Airport came with an estimated $8 million price tag, and voters in Newman Lake approved bonds last year to fund a $2.2 million fire station, which had a groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday. Both of those projects, however, were for permanent stations.
Earlier this month, the city hired an appraiser to examine a 23-acre parcel owned by the state for the possible placement of a permanent Station 5 at Cheney-Spokane Road and U.S. 195.
Fire Lt. Keith Davis is one of the firefighters who will work out of Station 5. He said over the past few weeks, fire crews have been out surveying the neighborhood and looking at building plans to best serve residents during emergencies.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said.
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