Closure of fire station at Tracyton still pending

Bob Heistand has been a part of the Tracyton community for years and was a volunteer firefighter and fire district commissioner. - Leslie Kelly
Bob Heistand has been a part of the Tracyton community for years and was a volunteer firefighter and fire district commissioner.
— image credit: Leslie Kelly

Bob Heistand remembers the days when the Tracyton Fire Station was brand new.

"It was great back then," Heistand said. "We all loved working here."

Heistand was a volunteer firefighter at the Tracyton station for 29 years, beginning in about 1970. He also served six and a half years as a fire district commissioner.

He and about a dozen other neighbors and residents of Tracyton toured the station Monday during an open house sponsored by Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue.

The district is considering closing Tracyton Station 44, at 300 NW Tracy St., because of its age and needed repairs.

After touring the building, Heistand said, "She's falling apart."

"I hate to see them leave," he said. "This station is just right close to my house and I've always been glad of that. But the expense to keep it open just seems to be too much."

Heistand said he's not that worried about response times getting any longer, because the efficiency of the district is so good.

"They're pretty dang quick," he said.

Neighbors Bob and Kay Kono and Phyllis Vettleson came to see the station to give their opinions.

"This station is just the same age as my house," Vettleson said. "I guess that doesn't speak too well for my house."

Kay Kono said she she's lived in the neighborhood since 1960 and is concerned about what might eventually be located on the site, if the station is torn down.

"My husband and I both were volunteers here," she said. "This place was hopping every Wednesday night when we were here for training. This station has seen a lot of life and I don't want to see it closed."

The Konos and Vettleson agreed that part of the connection to the stain is nostalgic. But they don't think it's in such bad shape.Neither does Gary Keenan, another Tracyton resident.

"I want the district to make good, sound financial decisions," he said. "But the dollar figures that the district is throwing out seem way off. They're saying the station needs a new septic system at $35,000 when this one isn't even failing. I just want them to consider keeping it open for the volunteers as a place for them to train."

Keenan referred to a handout that the district had at the open house and the meeting following the tour. It listed the cost to upgrade the Tracyton station to today's fire station standards as nearly $500,000.

Paul Anderson, repair and maintenance supervisor for the district, said the station has a number of major issues, according to a report from a structural engineer that studied the building.

"We asked him what it would take to keep the building operational," Anderson said. "There are a number of safety concerns, including that this building cannot be retro-fitted for a seismic event."

He said the electrical system needs repairs and the building is settling which may mean that in order to repair that, the septic system and drain field would have to be relocated.

If there were to be any interior upgrades, it was suggested by the engineer that the fireplace and chimney be removed, that the floor and ceiling in one area be leveled which would require checking both for asbestos, and that the  kitchen be remodeled.

"These seem like things that might not really be needed," he said. "But the fact is that with the building settling like it is, we really don't know what problems we might encounter until we get in there."

Additionally, the parking lot needs to be repaved and that would trigger the need for storm water drainage, to meet current codes.

Keenan, however, disputed the settling issue.

"This station was built by volunteers," he said. "It's always had that slope to it."

Keenan said he thinks the station should remain open and staffed by volunteers as a "training ground" for them to become professional firefighters as many have done in the past. He said he's worried that volunteers won't be accepted among the ranks of the professional firefighters when they are moved from Tracyton to other stations.

members of the board, later, said they don't think that will be an issue.

The district gave a rough estimate of the cost of keeping the station open and staffed with volunteers only, as $4,000 a year, most of that being utility charges.

But fire officials, including Chief Scott Weninger, said there are safety concerns. Because the building cannot be retrofitted for earthquake safety, the district's equipment would be at risk as would be any volunteers who might be in the building at the time of an earthquake.

As for what may happen with the property if the station is closed, neighbors were told that it is zoned residential and could be sold for up to four houses to be built on the lot.

Board Chairman Dave Fergus said the board will continue to take comments from the public and asked the staff to put together "a little bit more about the figures (costs involved in repairing the station)."

"We will continue to have discussions and we want to stay engaged with the community," Fergus said.

Adam Smith, representative of the IAFF Local 2819, commended the board for being open about the closure of the Tracyton Station."We wish that you would have done the same for the citizens of Chico," Smith said.

Smith referred to the decision by the district to reduced staffing minimums from 19 to 17 per shift which has meant closures of Chico Station 64 at 4065 Chico Way when there are not enough firefighters/EMTs available without the district having to pay overtime.


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