Wednesday, April 23, 2014

El Dorado Hills fire station to be torn down and rebuilt

Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

From page A3 | February 27, 2013 | 22 Comments

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.

North side
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.

South side
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.

Apparatus bay
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.

Cost estimates
$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.


Discussion | 22 comments

  • The other fire deptFebruary 26, 2013 - 8:27 am

    Maybe EDH Fire can teach the Hill Billy's up the freeway a couple lessons on finance. Congrats to you for being smart with your money and being able to afford a new fire station.

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  • I must have joined the wrong profession.February 27, 2013 - 8:20 am

    Sounds like the whole county should become ONE fire district. If EL Dorado Hills fire has this much money to build a new station, over pay their firefighter, etc. Sounds like they have a large portion of the county tax base. Please look at Grand Jury investigations. WAY OVER PAID!!MOre than County fire fighters.

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  • James SmithFebruary 27, 2013 - 8:42 am

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  • EvelynFebruary 27, 2013 - 9:02 am

    James Smith: Which part of the 30-page Grand Jury Report should we focus on? (I'm operating in lazy mode, and would appreciate being pointed in the right direction.)

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  • I must have joined the wrong professionFebruary 27, 2013 - 10:28 am

    Evelyn- I would start by looking at 30-32 which talks about a $900+ dollar short fall in 2010 and 2011. I would also like to take aim at the reasoning for this NEW station. I can understand electrical and all that but the reasoning of a new ambulance is bogus. Heres why: Medic 26- Closed begining of 2013 for a $600k dollar short fall Medic 49- Closed 5+ years ago for budget concerns/ bad economy Medic 17- Pollock Pines Medic 19- Pleseant Valley Medic 25- Placerville- busiest medic by far Medic 28- Shingle Spings- partially funded by Red Hawk Casino Medic 61- Georgetown Medic 85- El Dorado Hills- Do they need two when other area have none? Medic 89- Cameron Park aka Cal Fire Just my two cents

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  • don't hate, appreciate!February 27, 2013 - 12:00 pm

    How can calling a 20'x30' workout room and a kitchen actually big enough to accommodate 3-6 adults living there 24-7 be called excessive? Are we forgetting the purpose of what these brave men & women do everyday? I don't know about you but I am glad they are there and would hope that in a time of crisis (like a fire) that our EDH fire dept would be in top form. I sure don't want to be the one fighting fires, but I'm sure they are accepting applications if you think they've got it so good and are "being overpaid". EDH is the fastest growing city/town in all of El Dorado County, it makes sense that they'd need multiple stations.

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  • James SmithFebruary 27, 2013 - 2:54 pm

    Evelyn - Think not about what is in the Grand Jury report but what is not. Think about Volunteer Associations awash in money and investing in strange things.

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  • EvelynFebruary 27, 2013 - 3:05 pm

    Ah ..... James, those "volunteer" organizations!!! Much to my chagrin I'm learning that those "volunteer" organizations are not always what they're cracked up to be. Commonly they're comprised of individuals employed by and sent by vested (undisclosed) interests. They are not DONATING their time. Their time is well compensated. I haven't been able yet to give proper attention to the GJ report, but I do know what you mean about that which is not disclosed at all. What we don't know is killing us, and mostly we don't even KNOW that we don't know. Ignorance is a most wondrous tool. I promise to look at the GJ Report. Probably tonight or tomorrow.

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  • James SmithFebruary 27, 2013 - 3:09 pm

    Evelyn - Sorry, I typed the wrong word - not volunteer. It's actually the Fireman's Association has a lot of money off the books.

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  • EvelynFebruary 27, 2013 - 3:10 pm

    PS. Those "volunteer" organizations commonly now are tax-exempt and at least partially government (taxpayer) funded. Those "volunteers" are NOT poor, unemployed sods simply working for a worthy cause. And, yes, many have oodles of (our) money tucked safely away. You happen to have touched on a subject I been looking at intensively recently. Many have publicly unstated agendas. Time for them to open up!!!

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  • EvelynFebruary 27, 2013 - 3:16 pm

    James: I know nothing about the particular Fireman's Association you are referencing. But following your clarification I had a quick look and discover that throughout the country there are many Fireman's Associations registered as tax-exempt non-profits.

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  • I must have joined the wrong professionFebruary 27, 2013 - 3:33 pm

    Dont Hate appreciate, I dont hate at all.I respect them more than you know! I dont like the math or how thing dont add up. Reasons for bulding new station need to be accurate and truthful. El Dorado Hills will not get another medic unit anytime in the next 5-10 years or longer. This station 84 also only has ONE staffed engine at a time. That means 3 people leaving there per shift. I would also be interested in seeing how you go from $900K deficit to having 4 Million two years later to build a new station.

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  • James SmithFebruary 27, 2013 - 8:38 pm

    EDH is starting to follow the D.S. format for the association investing in Real Estate.

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  • EvelynFebruary 28, 2013 - 7:44 am

    James / I must have joined... : Having looked at the GJ report only one thing is clear (to me): The El Dorado Hills Fire Dept. is financially blessed compared to other fire depts. It was interesting to note that in official documents it is the "El Dorado Hills County Water District". But apart from the GJ Report, one can't help but wonder at the need for the Stations' replacement, particularly in today's economic climate. Let me guess: Someone has an (unstated) Agenda; and, Someone is going to make some money.

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  • EvelynFebruary 28, 2013 - 7:46 am

    James: What is the "D.S. format"?

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  • KarlFebruary 28, 2013 - 11:07 am

    Don't blame EDH-FD for being able to keep their books in order. Just because the County has Major Money issues w/ County Fire, doesn't make it EDH-FD fault. Maybe the County FD ought to sit down and learn from EDH-FD. Kudos go out to EDH-FD for a job well done. Continue the good work !! ;)

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  • Sue TaylorFebruary 28, 2013 - 1:42 pm

    Evelyn - D.S.... Diamond Springs

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  • EvelynFebruary 28, 2013 - 2:26 pm

    Sue: Thanks. I shudda known. Next Q: Where does one find info regarding the "format for the association investing in Real Estate"? 'Cause this is Greek to me.

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  • DaveFebruary 28, 2013 - 4:35 pm

    What a good use of money. Tear down a perfectly good building and build another building in its place. Has anyone ever been in the Sheriff's Office? The place is a dump and those guys make do with it while the EDH Fire gets to live high on their horse. If anything, build a new Sheriff's Office. They do way more than EDH Fire will ever do.

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  • Mike RobertsMarch 04, 2013 - 2:09 pm

    Hey, thanks for reading the MD, and for being engaged. This stuff can be complicated, so... just to clarify a few misconceptions: EDH Fire has consistently backed, endorsed and proposed consolidation of and with local fire agencies. Their proposals have been rejected. Efficiencies aside, the rural communities in the county want their own fire departments. Yes, EDH Fire gets a larger than normal slice of the post prop-13 property tax pie... because they were also a water agency with the pie was sliced. They get 17.5% on avg. The median in the county is 13%, with many rural agancies well under that. All this is explained in a fascinating three-part series: Another huge reason EDHFD is flush is they established a development fee b/4 the housing explosion. To be continued....

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  • Mike RobertsMarch 04, 2013 - 2:23 pm

    Continued: If you are going to reference the Grand Jury report, please be aware of EDH Fire's response: Yes, the new firehouse has room for an ambulance. That's all. It's just an extra spot. The volunteers in EDH and everywhere are amazing and will go straight to heaven when they die. The unions exist to serve their members, and have done an extrordinary job in recent years.. too good in fact, according to some. But in EDH, a weird thing happened... the lastest administration started working with the union leadership and the results have been good. They do the budget, the MOU (union contract) and other planning stuff together. Critics say the union is just trying to keep everything they've alreadyt won, but hey, so far, its working for everyone. EDH Station 84 is a wreck. It wasn't built to be what it has become. Read the story. Tearing it down and building something that will last forever is probably a good idea. And the money is there. It's called a Capital Reserve, and by law it can't be used for other stuff... like the Sheriff's Dept. If EDH were a city, that might not be true, but the EDHFD is a CA Special District, so that board reports essentially to no one, or everyone. EDH residents can vote the board out if they don't like what's going on. And no, they're not accepting applications. Working for the most affluent fire district in the state, if not the country is a plum job. Very few every leave, and when they do, it's usually to retire before their hair is grey. For that reason, and others, they are very very good. Evidence the few recent hires. I spend time with these people, watched them work, and they are good. You can say they have played the naive local reporter, but I ain't that naive and have written things about them they absolutly hate: all about their salaries, benefits, lawsuits and reserve accounts, spawning a few fire board candidacies along the way. If you are still reading, thanks again for reading and supporting both the Mountain Democrat and the El Dorado Hills Village Life.

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  • glen taylorMarch 29, 2013 - 12:48 am

    Hey Rob Cima, I am pretty sure the last time we spoke you were treating a facial burn from a beer bottle full of gas which detonated in my face....oh.... by the way thanks for that!! I just wanted to get in contact with Randy & Rick either send me an e mail at or give me a call at 530-644-4059 I would be highly appreciative...thanks brother!

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