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Evergreen Fire/Rescue is poised to select a firm to design and build its new Station 1, which will replace the district’s oldest station on Highway 73 near downtown Evergreen. The station, which …
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Evergreen Fire/Rescue is poised to select a firm to design and build its new Station 1, which will replace the district’s oldest station on Highway 73 near downtown Evergreen.
The station, which will be constructed on the former Evergreen Mountain Market property, is estimated to cost about $8 million and has been more than 20 years in the making. It is being funded from property taxes collected thanks to a mill levy increase approved by voters in 2016.
Plans call for a 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot building with 11 vehicle bays, crew quarters, a kitchen, exercise room and meeting room.
Part of the reason the fire district needs a new station, according to Fire Chief Mike Weege, is that newer fire engines, which are taller than older models, will not fit through the doors of the current building. The only engines housed in the current Station 1 are at least 25 years old, and once they are replaced, they will no longer fit.
Weege hopes the selection committee will make a recommendation to the fire board at its June 8 meeting. Because tenant leases at the Evergreen Mountain Market property don’t expire until October 2022, demolition is expected to start soon after, with construction starting in spring 2023 and move-in in 2024.
Weege said several community meetings will be conducted to get input from the public about the design and construction. No decisions have been made about what will happen to the current Station 1 after the fire department moves into the new station.
Fire Station 1
Moving or remodeling Fire Station 1, which was built in the mid-1960s, has been discussed among fire district officials since the late 1990s, according to Weege.
An earlier fire board purchased property on Troutdale Scenic Drive, but CDOT concerns about emergency vehicle access to Evergreen Parkway made the site an unlikely candidate for a new fire station. In fact, earlier this year, the district decided to sell the property.
Officials considered remodeling the existing station, but that would entail substantially digging into the hillside behind the building, and the area in front of the station is short, already making it difficult to back firetrucks into the building.
Fire officials knew that Jefferson County would eventually widen Highway 73, Weege said, and that prediction is coming to fruition when the road will be widened to three lanes from Plettner Lane to Buffalo Park Road in 2022-23.
So the best choice for the department, officials decided, was to construct a new building.
In 2016, when the fire district asked and received a mill levy increase from voters, the fire board decided not to ask for a bond to pay for a new station. Instead, the district promised voters that part of the mill levy increase would be used for a new fire station, and state law requires that the district fulfill the promise.
The district spent $1.5 million to purchase the Evergreen Mountain Market property and the property directly behind it. It has $4.5 million saved, and it plans to have the remaining funds available to pay the construction bills by the time the building is completed in 2024, Weege said.
Balancing budget needs
Weege said funding a new fire station is not hindering wildfire mitigation efforts, noting that this year, the district has budgeted nearly $1 million for a 10-member fuels crew that does mitigation work, the district’s chipping program, equipment, grant writing and more.
2020’s wildland budget was $775,000, Weege said, plus the department spent $375,000 on a Type 3 wildland fire engine that can be deployed in case of emergencies here and elsewhere in the state.
“We have invested a lot (in wildfire mitigation), and we are committed to helping the community,” Weege said, “but the community has to help, too.”
EFR has received permission from both Jefferson and Clear Creek counties to perform roadside mitigation, especially after a recent report noted that most evacuation routes in Evergreen are not passable in a wildfire event. However, Weege notes that road rights-of-way are not as wide as people might think.
The EFR fuels crews will be working on 14 acres of Dedisse Park across from Keys on the Green on Upper Bear Creek Road that will include roadside mitigation, he said.
Of the 120 square miles in the Evergreen Fire/Rescue district, the majority in private property, land that EFR does not have the authority to mitigate. That’s where the public comes in.
“These are your properties and your homes,” he said. “You have to take steps to help us to protect your homes. We need property owners to join in on the work. We can’t do it alone.”
People can do a lot to prepare for living in a wildfire-prone environment, he added, noting that 10 subdivisions have created Community Wildfire Protection Implementation Plans.
Known as a CWPIP, the document helps a community define areas that can be hazards to access and egress during a wildfire and define mitigation standards to implement to make the community less susceptible to wildfire.
Planning for the future
The district wants to move the ambulances and emergency response personnel at Station 4, which is further south on Highway 73, to the new Station 1, so Station 4 becomes the central location for wildfire mitigation trucks, equipment and personnel.
Weege says the district is planning for the new Station 1 to last 75 years.
“A major station like this,” he said, “we want to build it to last.”
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