Kirkland reopened the city’s oldest fire station on Sunday after an 11-month renovation project that improved firefighters’ workplace health and modernized the building.
Fire Station 25 first opened 44 years ago on 76th Place Northeast and had never been remodeled before the recent renovations began in October 2017. The city retrofitted the station for seismic activity and modernized the station by replacing all mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems.
“We consider fire stations to be critical infrastructure,” said Dave Van Valkenburg, deputy fire chief of the Kirkland Fire Department. “So the fact that it’s been reinforced with earthquake bracing and extra things to help it survive a natural disaster [is] important to us because we all know we want our fire stations to operate when things go bad.”
Station 25 firefighters, who receive an average two calls per day, according to the city, served the Finn Hill neighborhood from Fire Station 24 during the renovations. Kirkland firefighters aim for a four-minute response time and the 1.7-mile relocation did not interfere with target times, according to fire chief Joe Sanford. At worst, the move added about 30 seconds, he said.
Station 25 firefighters are breathing easy in their cleaner living spaces, which was previously a problem as engine exhaust and dirty gear would permeate the station. The firefighters’ living space is now separated from a designated bunker gear storage area and the engine bay exhaust systems.
“Sixty-five percent of firefighters are experiencing some form of cancer these days, we’re more than double the rate of the average citizen, so things like that are important to us because they adds to the longevity to our firefighters,” Valkenburg said. “Bunker gear is potentially dirty and contaminated with carcinogens or blood-born pathogens.”
The city also added some creature comforts such as improved sleeping quarters and improved the flow of the building to minimize the time it takes for firefighters to gear-up and head out.
“The bedrooms all have individual HVAC controls, we all know how that goes, right? One person likes the bedroom hot, one person likes the bedroom cold,” Valkenburg said.
Additionally, Valkenburg said they improved the station’s generator so that it can support the station more reliably in an emergency.
“The Kirkland Fire Department has provided service from Station 25 in the Finn Hill neighborhood for many years. These renovations make our community and our firefighters safer and ensure that we can continue providing services from Station 25 for decades to come,” said council member Penny Sweet, chair of the Public Safety Committee, in a press release.
The project’s construction costs exceeded $3 million, according to the city, and was paid for by a Fire District 41 bond. Fire District 41 was Finn Hill’s former fire district prior to Kirkland’s annexation of the neighborhood.
The overall project costs were under budget, the city said, and the remaining funds will be used to replace Fire Station 24 in a future project. This project will sell the current station 24 property to help fund a new station 24 located in Juanita.
The city is currently in the planning process for the station 24 project.
The station 25 reopening event brought in about 100 locals, according to Valkenburg. Kirkland City Council members attended the event, including Jon Pascal who spoke about the renovations along with Sanford.
Many locals were interested in the new fire station and had the chance to talk about the different new features with the department staff who attended.
“For the most part,” Valkenburg said, “it was really positive feedback on the layout of the station, the improvements, how it was better for the health and safety of the firefighter and how it allowed them to serve the community better.”
The renovations also included a new art piece on the station that was created by local artist Perri Howard of Velocity Made Good, who also attended the event.
“The theme, ‘Hope in the Dark,’ refers to the steadfast presence of our first responders, ready to roll out at a moment’s notice,” Howard said in a press release.
The Kirkland Arts Commission recommended Howard to the city council.
“The crew who work out of station 25 have been outstanding,” Valkenburg said. “During the remodel, they relocated to a smaller facility that didn’t have as many amenities, had a few logistical issues and a few challenges. They took it all in stride, they made the best of the situation and they never let any of those obstacles impact service and coming back to station 25 … they’ve been really appreciative of the support the citizens have given us.”