RANCHO SANTA FE — Fire Station No. 3 is nearly finished and is filled with brand new, state-of-the-art and high-tech furnishings and equipment. However, one of the most talked about things in the station is the old-fashioned fire pole. This iconic addition to the fire station is not just for show, it will be used by firefighters on their way to emergencies, said Rancho Santa Fe Fire Chief Tony Michel.This newest addition to the fire district is 10,000 square feet and will house a fire truck and three firefighters. It can also house a spare brush truck and in the future, perhaps a ambulance. If there is an incident such as the Witch Creek Fire, it can house 12 or more firefighters. And in the case of a major disaster like a flood or earthquake, it is totally self-sufficient with a generator and fuel availability.“The architect was award-winning fire station architect Jeff Katz,” Michel said.
Michel is particularly proud of this station because it has taken 10 years to reach this point.
The old fire station on the property was getting timeworn and needed to be replaced. Fire Department officials searched everywhere for a spot for a new station, but many would-be neighbors didn’t appreciate the prospect of the noise and look of a fire station.
“It had to look good in the community and not be an eyesore,” Michel said.
Response times needed to be considered from any new location. As it turns out, the location of the old station, across from Helen Woodward Animal Center, was the best choice. So, the old station was demolished and the new station constructed. It was estimated it would cost $6 million, but it’s coming in at $4.7 million, Michel said.
“It looks big, but the lot is small, so we had to build up,” he said. “We had to build very close to the street.”
As he led a tour through the station recently, he was beaming with pride.
He pointed out the study where firefighters will do continuous training using resources like video conferencing with other area fire departments, such as Solana Beach, Del Mar and Encinitas.
“Being a firefighter means lifelong learning,” he said. “There are always new challenges, new hazards and new threats.”
When he got to the day room, where there will be a television and comfortable seating, he pointed out the misnomer.
“It is called a day room, but they are never there during the day,” he said.
He said they are busy with their duties of teaching fire prevention, instructing volunteers of the CERT program, making sure new structures and landscape are fire safe for the area and more.
The gym will be filled with cardio and core training equipment.
“We encourage (firefighters) to do 60 minutes of physical training every day,”
There are two laundry rooms, one specially made to clean turnouts, which cost about $2,000. Gone are the days when uniforms went home and were laundered with the rest of the family’s clothing.
Because of the hazards a firefighter might encounter each day, uniforms are laundered at the station.
There are three restrooms with showers. If a female comes on duty, one will be specifically for her.
There is an outside shower in case someone needs to be decontaminated before entering the station and exhaust removers inside where the engines are housed. Also in the engine bay are lockers for turnouts that are ventilated to help dry them if they get wet.
“That was the idea of the architect,” Michel said.
Michel said he is glad there is an elevator because the station belongs to the community and tours will be a regular event.
“It would break my heart if a kid in a wheelchair could not get up (to the second floor) like all the other kids,” he said.