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Closed Tigard fire station hasn't posed problem, TVF&R says

Remodel won't be finished until January 2015, but TVF&R officials say they are making due

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - TVF&R closed Tigard's Burnham Street fire station in June for a remodel, and fire agency officials say they haven't seen an increase in response times.It’s been more than a month since firefighters moved out of Station 51 in downtown Tigard, but officials with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue say crews haven’t experienced any troubles in responding to service calls in the area.

In June, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue closed one of the busiest fire stations in town, the Tigard fire station located at 8935 S.W. Burnham St., in order to make $1.4 million worth of seismic upgrades and install new facilities for female firefighters.

Station 51 is an important station, said Stefan Myers, a spokesman with TVF&R. The station’s heavy rescue team is responsible for responding to the majority of crashes along Highway 99W and is skilled in extracting people trapped in vehicles, trench extractions, high-rope rescues and working in small, confined spaces.

The heavy rescue rig also responds to calls outside of TVF&R’s service area, when neighboring districts such as Lake Oswego and Hillsboro need assistance.

Normally, TVF&R wouldn’t have closed the station during the remodel, Myers said. The agency often installs a temporary structure on or near the property so crews still have access to their equipment and can respond to calls.

Allen Kennedy, TVF&R’s division chief of central operations, said those plans were too costly in the case of the Tigard Station.

“It would have delayed construction,” Kennedy said. “Moving a 100-foot ladder truck is not an easy process.

“But otherwise, we would have had to stay on site and eat the cost.”

Closing the facility temporarily has saved the district about $437,000, officials said.

Instead, the station’s heavy rescue team was moved to TVF&R’s station in Progress, near the corner of Southwest Scholls Ferry Road and Hall Boulevard. Truck 51 was moved to the station on Southwest Walnut Street.

“A lot of the calls they run are on Highway 99(W),” Myers said. “So we can move a truck to the Walnut Station, and they can still get to 99W really easily. In Progress, the heavy rescue team can still access all that they need on Highway 217, Interstate 5 and down 99W.”

A medical team at Progress was moved to TVF&R’s corporate office on Southwest Dartmouth Street near 72nd Avenue to respond to calls in the Tigard area during peak hours — Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“That’s not exactly where Station 51 is,” Myers admitted, “but they can cover a lot of that response area.”

In a field where being a few minutes too late could be fatal, Myers said the agency is closely monitoring response times to emergencies.

“Response times are really important to us, and we make sure that those are constantly being monitored,” Myers said.

So far, Myers said, response times haven’t posed a problem.

“Crews are busy, but they are covering it really well,” Myers said. “We are analyzing as we go. But right now, we are comfortable with the response times that we are seeing. They are doing a good job covering everything during this difficult time.”

Meanwhile, the station upgrades are funded by the agency’s $77.5 million bond approved by voters in 2006.

The bond helps pay for improvements to existing buildings, as well as building new fire stations across the district.

When finished, the station won’t look too different from the outside, Myers admits, but it will do wonders for the station in the event of an emergency such as an earthquake or fire.

“We want to make sure that we are still able to roll out in the event of an emergency,” Myers said. “We want to have a safe fire station and meet the same standards we’d expect of others.”

Construction crews are making seismic upgrades and installing an interior sprinkler system to the facility, expanding the fire house’s bunk room where firefighters sleep and installing facilities for female firefighters. Before, women working in the station had to use a converted public restroom, which was not conducive, TVF&R officials said.

“In the past, women had to put up with what we’ve been able to do,” Kennedy said.

Firefighters are expected to return to Tigard Station 51 by the end of January 2015.

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