Growth spurs fire department expansions | SierraSun.com

Growth spurs fire department expansions

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun

Courtesy of Ward-Young Architecture and PlanningAn artist's rendering of the new Northstar Highlands Fire Station.

In an effort to amp up emergency services to both remote and growing communities, local fire districts are planning expansions, remodels and satellite stations.

Rapid growth is projected to double Northstar’s size in 10 years, so officials are now planning a new fire station and a remodel of their current facility.

The new satellite station on Highlands View Road will serve the new Ritz-Carlton hotel and 1,450 condos being built.

The station will be constructed and paid for by East West Partners, the developers of the condos and hotel.

An additional fire station in essential for the expanding community because response times from the Northstar Drive station to the outer reaches of the community are inadequate, Northstar Community Services District general manager Mike Staudenmayer said.

The main station at Northstar will also get a $1.2 million remodel, which will start next year.

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The station on Northstar Drive has a leaky roof and windows, poor lighting and bad drainage, according to Staudenmayer.

It was built in 1974 and needs technological updates as well as new living quarters, said Northstar Fire Chief Mark Shadowens.

The expansion is intended to house additional equipment to serve the growing community, Staudenmayer said.

Construction includes 1,656-square-foot of equipment storage, a 1,656-square-foot office space and training room above, and a remodel of 2,405-square-feet of dorm rooms, office space and other facilities.

Construction will be funded by fees collected from new development in the Northstar area, Staudenmayer said.

New development fees equal 73 cents per square foot, money which is paid to the community service district to increase services to the community as it grows, Staudenmayer said.

To shorten the response times from Tahoe City to Alpine Meadows, North Tahoe Fire made a 15-year agreement with Alpine Springs County Water District to operate the Alpine Meadows fire station. Under the agreement, which took effect at the start of the year, North Tahoe Fire will lease the Alpine Meadows fire station for $1 per year.

Additionally, the water district earmarked $92,000 to remodel the Alpine Meadows fire station to create a second bedroom in anticipation of staffing the station around the clock. The project is expected to be completed by July.

“The biggest single issue facing that valley from a fire and emergency medical services standpoint is response time,” said North Tahoe Fire Chief Duane Whitelaw.

Currently, the Alpine Meadows station is not staffed, but beginning July 1, North Tahoe Fire will have firefighters at the station for a total of four out of 12 months.

Eventually the fire station will be staffed five months in a year. It cannot be staffed all the time because of a lack of funding, Whitelaw said.

Officials are still deciding which months the Alpine Meadows station will be operational.

Staffing the station full time during peak months will “dramatically reduce response time to injuries, illnesses, and fires in the valley by cutting off time it takes to get from Tahoe City,” Whitelaw said.

Because the two districts have a long-standing working relationship, Whitelaw said, North Tahoe Fire will likely continue to contract with the Alpine Meadows Fire Department.