El Dorado Hills Fire Station 84’s days are numbered. The familiar Marina station will be knocked down this summer and rebuilt to modern standards on the same Francisco Boulevard parcel, a quarter mile north of Green Valley Road.
Operations will move around the corner into the Lake Forest Plaza, adjacent to the former Round Table Pizza, until the new station is complete. The storefront site requires only minor improvements, with space behind the building to house an engine.
Station 84 was built in 1982 as a mustering point for volunteers. It was strategically positioned to protect the most threatened areas in El Dorado Hills, including Salmon Falls Road, Kanaka Valley and the Hickok area, all loaded with dry chaparral and subject to hot summer winds off Folsom Lake.
The aging station also stands as the first line of defense for some of the most dramatic and valuable property in El Dorado Hills, neighborhoods including the Summit, Southpointe, Vista Del Lago, Promontory, Marina and Lakehills (the El Dorado Hills neighborhood which sits directly above the tinderbox Folsom State Recreation Area).
When those affluent neighborhoods began building out in the early 1990s, station staffing increased to accommodate full-time coverage. The firehouse was expanded to include common sleeping quarters, a workout room and a hose-drying tower, but ADA features and accommodations for female firefighters were an afterthought at the time.
Former Chief Bob Cima died shortly after the 1992 remodel. The firehouse was named in his honor.
Fire apparatus has since gotten larger and more complex. Modern engines can barely squeeze through the old roll-up doors. The tight quarters create numerous safety concerns, said Deputy Chief Jim O’Camb, who led a Feb. 7 public workshop on the proposed replacement.
The old station has a perpetually leaky roof, mold issues, plumbing problems, single pane windows and inadequate wiring and electrical service to support modern emergency response equipment, he said. The structure’s other deficiencies include a major shortage of storage space and an auxiliary generator that spews exhaust fumes into the firehouse.
Ironically, the station built for volunteers has no room for their gear, and no sprinklers to protect itself from fire.
Discussions to replace the station began in 2007. The El Dorado Hills Fire Board of Directors considered putting its replacement at the southwest corner of Francisco Boulevard and Green Valley Road. In a 3-2 vote in 2010, the fire board decided that Station 84 should retain its current neighborhood location, thus saving $2.1 million in land acquisition.
Engineer Mike Gygax praised the decision during the Feb 7 workshop. “This location lends itself to foot traffic and creates a close connection with the community,” he said, adding that residents routinely drop in with questions, problems and the occasional frozen turkey.
A remodel was considered and eventually dismissed. In 2012 the board voted to knock down the existing structure and build a new one from scratch.
O’Camb hopes to turn the demolition of the old station into a county-wide training exercise.
Groundbreaking is targeted for July. Construction will take about a year, he said.
The new 10,000-square-foot, solar-powered Robert Cima Memorial Fire Station will be more than twice the size of its predecessor, designed to comfortably sleep six, with separate accommodations for female firefighters.
The design includes an expanded apparatus bay, flanked by a single story business center to the north and a two-story living structure south of the apparatus bay.
The public front desk and business office will be in the north structure, with parking on the side. The north structure will include a vented “turnout” room, where firefighters and volunteers store their protective equipment and disrobe after a fire, minimizing exposure to fire retardant or toxic substances they encounter.
It also includes a public restroom, a workout room and much-needed storage and communication rooms.
The day room, kitchen and workshop will be housed south of the apparatus bays, along with more bathrooms, communications rooms and storage rooms. A second floor dormitory includes four small rooms, a larger room that sleeps two and three bathrooms.
Out front, an inviting lawn area will contain a drinking fountain and public seating.
A 50-foot hose tower behind the south structure will prevent hose rot and double as a rescue training “prop,” while hosting an AT&T cell tower shrouded in metal siding.
Three enlarged drive through apparatus bays will measure 10 feet by 40 feet, with remote-controlled 14-foot-wide roll-up doors at each end.
A large concrete apron in front of the apparatus bay will let the engines get some sun on nice days.
$3,000,000 – construction
$100,000 – demolition
$200,000 – furniture, fixtures and equipment
$500,000 – design, inspections and reports
Permit and agency fees, off-site improvements and the temporary station lease, which is still being negotiated, bring the final estimate to roughly $4 million, according to O’Camb.
The new station will not require any debt. Roughly half of the overall cost can be paid with development fees, according to district Chief Financial Officer Connie Baer. The other half will come from a combination of the district’s capital equipment and general reserves.
District fiscal watchdog Dick Ross was one of a half a dozen members of the public in attendance at the Feb. 7 presentation. He questioned the size and cost of the new station, especially the “comfort and convenience” features, such as the 600-square-foot workout room, the large kitchen and three refrigerators.
He called the administration area a luxury, and asked why the dorm sleeps six, with four single rooms, when only three firefighters work each shift.
“It sounds like we’re building a clubhouse,” he said.
O’Camb explained that the facility includes extra capacity for possible future volunteers or an extra ambulance crew. Firefighter fitness saves lives, and studies show that on-site workout facilities makes a big difference, he added.
“We put a lot of time and effort into this so we don’t get sued or have to fix things later,” said O’Camb.
The last station built by the district was Station 87 completed in 2007 at a cost of $250 per square foot, as compared to the Station 84 estimate of $300 per square foot.
O’Camb, a former building contractor, is confident that the winning bid will come in less than the $3 million estimate.
How much under? “That’s to be determined,” he said. The project goes to bid in June.