JOHN DAY – John Day Fire Chief Ron Smith says firefighters have been making do with a fire station that is not only inadequate, but dangerous.

“I’m hopeful that at some point the community realizes this fire station has exceeded its life,” he said.

Plans have been drawn up for a new fire station, and the city owns a site – 316 S. Canyon Blvd. – for its construction. City officials are weighing plans to fund a new fire station, and Smith wants them to understand why it is needed.

His greatest concern is a series of lengthy cracks on the back wall of the current station – a hazard should an earthquake occur. In addition, water seeps through when it rains, and although most of it goes down a drain in the center of the station, it leaves behind mold and mildew.

The other problem Smith sees is space.

The city owns six fire trucks: two city engines, one rural engine, one water tender and two brush rigs.

Only four fit into the fire station – barely.

When the fire station was built 60 years ago, fire engines were a lot smaller, he said. Over the years, because of federal mandates, bigger and bigger vehicles have been designed.

Assistant Fire Chief Don Gabbard said it’s difficult to access the fire engines because they are parked so close to the walls and other engines.

Although Gabbard is slim, it’s even a challenge for him to get in and out.

One of the parked engines sits eight inches from the garage door and three inches from the back wall with little space on the sides.

With such tight space around and overhead, there’s no room to make repairs or clean the vehicles indoors.

The hose tower, a small 20-foot-tall structure where fire hoses are hung to dry, also presents a problem. Firefighters should have easy to access to the tower, which ideally would be separate from the fire station. It should also serve as a training area where firefighters learn to rescue unconscious victims from burning buildings, two or more stories tall.

The tower sits behind one of the engines at the station, very near the neighboring electric substation.

Smith said a new fire station would give firefighters a place to properly train.

Other problems include the need to drag hoses down the block and across the street to clean; the street must be blocked off and the hoses aren’t cleaned in the wintertime due to ice they would leave behind in the street.

Since there is no indoor parking for the brush rigs, they must empty the water pumps, and drain the hoses and plumbing before winter.

When brush fires crop up in the spring, “we have to stop and take the time to fill them and make sure everything is working,” Smith said.

Gabbard said that after a fire is put out, the brush rigs are drained again in case another cold snap hits.

“I wish we didn’t need a new fire station,” Smith said. “It’s money out of people’s pockets.”

“We don’t need a big fancy building, we just need something adequate,” he said.

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