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$5.5 fire bond would mean quicker service for District 10, less burden on Issaquah trucks

Rick Gaines, a District 10 fire commissioner, stands inside the May Valley fire station, number 78. If a $5.5 million bond is approved, the station would move a more central location.  - Celeste Gracey | Issaquah and Sammamish Reporter
Rick Gaines, a District 10 fire commissioner, stands inside the May Valley fire station, number 78. If a $5.5 million bond is approved, the station would move a more central location.
— image credit: Celeste Gracey | Issaquah and Sammamish Reporter

A $5.5 million fire bond measure would help keep Issaquah’s fire trucks in town and help provide quicker service for residents in District 10, south of Issaquah.

The levy is up before the district’s 8,000 registered voters in February.

If approved, about $3.5 million of the money would go toward relocating station 78 from the borders of Renton to just south of Squak Mountain, central to its emergency calls.

Today, when calls come in from communities along the Issaquah-Hobart Road, trucks stationed in Issaquah would often make it to the incident quicker than those in community’s own district, said Bud Backer, deputy chief at Eastside Fire and Rescue.

Station 78 was built in a corner of the district and only a few blocks from a station in Renton. There was once a belief that by placing stations close to city borders, it would discourage further city annexations, keeping more tax payers in the district. That mentality has since changed to focus on being effective, said Rick Gaines, a District 10 commissioner.

The district purchased land along the May Valley Road about five years ago, and has been waiting for a good opportunity to put the measure on the ballot since.

With how low construction rates are today, it’s a good time to build, Gaines said.

First opened in the 1980s, the current fire station is far from obsolete, but the awkward space is far from ideal.

Cubicle walls separate the three firefighter beds from the cramped weights room, making it impossible to use when someone is sleeping.

Treadmills were set up in the garage between the fire truck and the ambulance for lack of better space.

A new station would mean firefighters would get their own rooms with doors for sleeping. It would also give them an opportunity to build a better space for walk-in calls.

Bond money would also be used to help pay off debt on a new station in Carnation, also in District 10, and create a fire truck driving course.

Normal parking lots aren’t built to handle the stress of repetitively driving fire engines over them. If a lot is used too heavily, the trucks can actually crack the asphalt, Backer said.

Any remaining money would go toward remodeling a volunteer station 76, south of the Tiger Mountain. Today, volunteers are staying overnight in office and classroom space. The improvements would encourage more participation.

When big storms hit, fire stations tend to be the spot people go to get warm and to charge cell phones. This is especially important in more rural areas, like Tiger, which tend to get cut off from larger cities.

“A fire station in a disaster is a refuge island,” Gaines said, adding that it’s a good use of resources to recruit more volunteers.

If passed, the measure would increase property taxes by about 9 cents per assessed $1,000, or about $36 a year for a home worth $400,000.

Bud Backer, Eastside Fire and Rescue deputy chief, stands in the empty lot where District 10 plans to build a new station.

 

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