The Okanogan County Fire District 6 commissioners are currently working with an architect to develop a design for a new district fire station in Winthrop that will meet the needs of the firefighters and district for the least cost. In Ross Darling’s June 19 My Turn piece, he discusses the most recent design the commissioners considered. His article contains a great deal of misinformation. Below, I’ll correct the worst of his mistakes.
The station design is still in the planning stage.
The commissioners have not identified a date for a levy vote.
A levy amount has not been determined yet.
To date, the district has spent about $500,000 for a building site, engineering fees, and architect fees.
The district has always cited many reasons for why a new station is needed. Adequate vehicle space is just one of them.
Every feature in the proposed new station has a purpose and fulfills a significant need. These needs are identified and discussed in a needs assessment that is on the district website, okanogancountyfd6.com. It is well written and doesn’t take long to read. It was adopted unanimously by the commissioners at their Feb. 11 meeting to serve as a guide for planning the new station. I highly recommend reading it for anyone who is interested in or concerned about the design of the new station.
A kitchen and dining area will provide nourishment and rehabilitation for firefighters after calls and a place to eat when on extended standby at the station (e.g., during wildfires). Together with a dorm room, it will provide the capacity for around-the-clock staffing.
The meeting room will be used weekly for group training. Training is essential for firefighter safety and competence and is a regulatory requirement. The meeting room will serve as an emergency operations center when needed. It will also serve as a small-group meeting space for the public and other agencies.
The second-floor multi-purpose room will be used for a variety of indoor, all-weather hands-on training and practice both in the room itself and in the adjoining bays, (for example, multi-story-building firefighting and rescue training using ladders, ropes, stairwells and hoses). It will also be used for after-call physical and mental warm-down and decompression, physical fitness training, and storage.
The 11-by-16-foot library will be a common use area for all firefighters. It will have maintenance manuals, training materials and records. It will provide a quiet place for study and testing. It will have computers and internet service for online training courses. And, for volunteers who are telecommuters, it can serve as a quiet work place which places them already at the station if a call comes in.
The office space consists of one room with space for three desks and another separate room. It serves the same functions for the same staff as at the current Winthrop station.
The reason we don’t have firefighters staying overnight now is because there aren’t facilities to do so. According to Chief Acord, if the new station had sleeping and eating quarters, it could be staffed around the clock by paid staff and volunteers during periods of high risk and perhaps also on weekdays during normal conditions.
Chief Acord has pointed out that the new station should have a sprinkler system in any event because of the cost and critical function of the building and its contents.
The Twisp Public Works Building is 5,808 square feet and cost $960,000. It is a fine public works building, but it is not a main fire station and is far less expensive to build. Different building types can have very different building costs even for similar sized buildings. For example, the new Twisp Civic Building will be 8,632 square feet. and, as of February 2018, has a projected cost of $3,168,000.
The new station will significantly benefit all areas served by District 6 including Lost River and Gold Creek. The new station will be a better training facility and will be used by all district personnel. Better training facilities will result in more frequent and thorough training and better firefighters which benefits every part of the district. A facility which provides better access to and organization of equipment and periodic 24-hour station staffing will result in better response times which also benefits every area served by the district. And, a facility which better protects the health and safety of firefighters will help prevent firefighter injuries and health problems which, in turn, will help keep firefighters available for duty. It will also help with retention and recruitment. Having more firefighters and keeping them available for duty is also a benefit to every part of the District. Lastly, with respect to the Lost River and Gold Creek areas, the Winthrop station responds to the same calls as the Mazama station 96% of the time and to the same calls as the Carlton station 72% of the time.
Paul Sisson lives in Winthrop.