A major expansion of the fire station near northern city limits is running several months behind schedule.
Durango Fire Protection District planned to finish the expansion by June, but the snowy winter set the project back, said Fire Chief Hal Doughty. Construction is now expected to be complete by October, he said.
The almost $3.2 million project will expand Fire Station No. 3 from 3,000 square feet to just under 11,000 square feet to house additional vehicles and staff members, he said.
“The capabilities of this station have been significantly increased,” he said.
The final cost of the project was a bit higher than the $3.1 million estimate the district expected to pay in December. At that time, the district hadn’t received final bids from contractors, Doughty said.
When finished, the station will house five staff members, three to operate a fire engine and two to work an ambulance, he said. The staff is needed to respond to 800 emergency calls a year, or two or three calls every day, he said.
Currently, the station houses four staff members in a temporary trailer on-site.
The station, on County Road 251 (east 32nd Street), is the first major project paid for by an increase in property taxes in 2017.
The building is also the first in Durango Fire’s district built for professional firefighters and incorporates numerous features to protect staff from exposure to cancer-causing particles inherent in their work, Deputy Chief Randy Black said. Living areas on the second-floor were built with ventilation to keep diesel fumes and other cancer-causing particles out of the area, Black said.
Other stations in the district were converted by the district after serving other purposes.
“It’s the first time there has been a building designed around the needs of the crews to maximize their efficiency and response,” he said.
The living space has seven bunk rooms, three bathrooms, office space, a kitchen and a deck, he said. The bunk rooms are utilitarian and only 72 square feet, he said.
The living space is above three new bays for vehicles and a specially ordered brass fire pole will connect the two floors, Black said. It will be the first and only fire pole in the 325-square-mile district.
The new building also has a built-in fire protection feature that will shut down gas-powered appliances, such as the stove and grill, when the crew receives an emergency call from dispatch, Black said.
Training opportunities were also considered in the design of the station. So crews will be able to practice moving hoses on the fire escape and setting up ladders to fight second-story fires, he said.
The two-story building is expected to be finished by August or September, he said.
In the second phase, the original fire station will be expanded and remodeled to include a fitness area and a training and meeting room. The meeting room will be available to residents for meetings, Black said.
The station is the first of four major construction projects the fire district plans to build, Doughty said.
Replacing the downtown fire station next to River City Hall on Camino del Rio and 12th Street was the district’s highest priority, Doughty said. But the district has been unable to reach an agreement with the city about where a rebuilt Station No. 2 should go, he said.
“As the fire chief, I feel like the City Council is not making our projects a priority,” he said.
The district examined rebuilding the station where it is, moving it to the Transit Center parking lot or moving it to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad parking lot.
All the sites are problematic, City Councilor Dean Brookie said. But the council would be interested in exploring other options to accommodate a fire station, he said
“I am totally empathetic with Hal,” Brookie said.
The City Council was interested in selling the train parking lot back to the D&SNG to honor a previous agreement, Brookie said. New city councilors will be updated on the issue this month to see if they feel similarly, he said.
The Transit Center parking lot has financial issues. Brookie could not describe the problems with the Transit Center parking lot beyond saying it has “financial encumbrances.” And the fire station cannot be rebuilt where it is unless new office space is found for city employees at River City Hall, he said.
If Durango Fire is unable to reach an agreement about relocating the downtown fire station, the district plans to continue working on its other construction priorities, such as a new training facility in Bodo Industrial Park and a new station in Three Springs, Doughty said.