New fire station is open
July 17, 2013
By Michele Mihalovich
First responders love the new digs
The emblem on the side of North Bend fire vehicles is a black sheep, an indication of how firefighters felt they ranked in years past.
“We were kind of considered the trash station, always getting everybody’s hand-me-downs,” firefighter Bob Venera said.
An impromptu tour June 24 of the old fire station No. 87, now part of Eastside Fire & Rescue, illuminated the living conditions firefighters and paramedics had been dealing with for years.
Firefighter Bob Butterfield, who’s been with the department since 1995, and the station’s newest member, Lt. Chris Loken, served as tour guides.
The building was built in 1970 as an attachment to North Bend City Hall, which was built in 1939, to serve the volunteer firefighters at the time, Butterfield said.
The area in between the two buildings is fraught with water leakage problems, and the firefighters used ingenuity to try and handle the problem with clever towel catchment systems over buckets.
Firefighters and paramedics were crammed into one little bedroom, with the exception of the shift supervisor. That person gets a bed in the shift supervisor office.
And since there was no other office space, Butterfield pointed out how it might be pretty uncomfortable for a female firefighter to have a meeting with a male shift supervisor in a room with a bed.
The workout room is right behind a fire engine in the apparatus bay, where the emergency vehicles are kept. Although the station now has hoses to capture a lot of diesel fumes, that doesn’t erase the years of fumes that have settled on surfaces, Loken said.
All of the electrical outlets included a tangle of extension cords and plugs.
“Everything that we warn everybody about, we had to do here,” Butterfield said. “This place just wasn’t built for the modern world or to house people full time.”
Plumbing problems meant all of the drinking water had to be brought in. The Duvall and Nisqually earthquakes caused issues at the fire station, including foundation problems that caused sewage to occasionally back up into the apparatus bay.
At one point, the fire department got a 4-wheel-drive medical unit, but since it was too tall, cement had to be cut away from one of the bay openings in order for it to fit.
And let’s not forget the rats.
The living quarters are on the second floor, and the drop down ceiling is peppered with rat drawings on paper so pest control can easily find the rattraps in the ceiling.
Loken pointed out several clean spots on walls, explaining that is where they cleaned up splattered blood from the rat traps.
Recently, he had to grab a secondary coat and pants to run on a call because his primary gear was being washed. That’s when he found rat hair and feces on his gear.
Despite all of that, Butterfield said, a lot of firefighters requested to work in North Bend.
“Obviously, the station wasn’t the selling point,” he said. “It’s the community.”
Butterfield said the people of North Bend are kind and very generous to its firefighters.
He pointed to the furniture in the commons area, which a couple donated several years ago when they moved.
And when the firefighters could no longer just keep putting Band-aids on the aging building, the community showed just how generous it could be.
North Bend and King County Fire District No. 38 entered into an interlocal agreement to pursue a $5 million bond to construct a new facility. And in a special election in February 2011, voters overwhelmingly approved the bond, with 73.21 percent approving the bond in North Bend, and 62.01 percent approving it in the fire district. The city’s share is $2.25 million, with the fire district picking up the rest.
With much hoopla, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in July 2012 and on July 9, 2013, the first shift of firefighters and paramedics started moving into the 13,166-square-foot building, loading up boxes of pots and pans into the fire engines in between calls.
Venera, one of three EFR firefighters and two Bellevue Fire firefighter/paramedics, got the historic honor of spending the first 24-hour shift in the new fire house on Maloney Grove Road, and he showed the Star around the spacious new station.
It includes a computer room, conference room, separate bedrooms for each person, a commons room with brand new lounge chairs, a big screen for watching TV or training films, a kitchen with shiny new appliances, a patio for barbecuing, an office, lots of natural light and forest views, a laundry room and a weight room with new equipment.
Venera also pointed out the long, kitchen table he made out of red oak, with the help of three other firefighters who pitched in on the finishing work — his gift to the new space and firefighters to come.
And that’s just the living space.
The building’s middle section has five spaces for their units with giant bay doors at the front and back of the building. No more backing ladder trucks into bays.
The other side of the building holds supplies, equipment, gear and an industrial washing machine to remove carcinogenic soot from coats and pants.
Venera was most impressed with the layout of the new station. He said North Bend firefighters at the old station lost a lot of time running down the stairs on fire calls.
Being on one floor and so close to the trucks is “really going to reduce our response times,” he said.
“Just having room for everything is going to be nice. It’s modern, clean, nice and new. The taxpayers should be very happy,” Venera said.
Despite everything, he said he was feeling a bit melancholy about leaving the old station.
Not only has he been a North Bend firefighter for 28 years, but he was a volunteer before that. And his father used to be the North Bend fire chief.
“I’ve been going to the station since I was 10 years old,” Venera said. “I have a lot of history there. A lot of memories. It was a pig. But it was our pig.”
However, as he stood in the apparatus bay with all of the doors open, catching a mid-afternoon breeze, he did have to admit, “I guess we’re no longer the black sheep.”
If you go
North Bend Fire Station open house
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 20
500 Maloney Grove Road