April 08, 2002 11:00 pm
New Digs: Work is progressing on La Grandes new fire station at Cove and Cherry streets. (The Observer/jeff petersen).
New Digs: Work is progressing on La Grandes new fire station at Cove and Cherry streets. (The Observer/jeff petersen).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

La Grande Fire Chief Bruce Weimer admits that showing off the construction progress at the new La Grande fire station is one of his favorite activities.

We should be in well ahead of schedule, Weimer said after guiding a group into the building just off Cove Avenue. WC Construction of Elgin is scheduled to have the building completed by the end of October.

Maybe Im being optimistic, but I think we can be in by late-summer, Weimer said.

With the two-story east end of the building now enclosed, the interior work is less visible, but work is progressing rapidly. The new building, including the equipment bays, has approximately 18,500 square feet of space.

The bottom floor of the east end will include offices, a small reception area and a training room-public meeting room capable of seating up to 75 people. The community room also will include a folding room-divider so the area can be made into two smaller rooms, similar to the meeting rooms at the Ag Service Center in Island City.

Many of the interior walls are simply framed in at this point. But outlets and wiring are being put in place.

Looking out of the main floor, Weimer points to where a parking area will be as well as a grassy area with perhaps a picnic table or some benches.

We really want to be good neighbors, he said.

Near the new fire stations front doors, which will face Cherry Street, there also will be a public emergency phone that connects to the 911 system for reporting at night or when no one is available at the station.

The second floor of the east end of the building is where on-duty firefighters and an ambulance crew will live and train.

Unlike the existing fire hall with its dormitory, the new building includes seven small bedrooms. Thats more bedrooms than are actually needed, but Weimer hopes there will be a time when visiting firefighters might need a place to stay.

The upstairs will also include a kitchen and living area, a work-out room firefighters must spend an hour per shift working on physical conditioning a laundry area, a small study room and mens and womens bathrooms and showers.

While Weimer said he often hears about what appears to be the large size of the new building, the new fire hall will not be much larger than the existing one at Washington Avenue and Elm Street. At the existing fire hall, upstairs living space extends over the equipment bays, which wont be the case in the new hall, Weimer said.

But there will be some familiar features. The firefighters living area will include the decades-old pool table, and the exercise room will have a treadmill donated by Grande Ronde Hospital.

And of course, the fire pole that firefighters now use to slide from the second floor of the fire hall to the ground-floor equipment bay will be moved to the new building, continuing to allow quick access from the living quarters to the truck bays. It will take a few of the men and a truck to transport the pole from the old to the new building.

The new building also includes an extensive fire-protection system, the type of combined wet- and dry- sprinkler system and alarms that firefighters would like to see in all new construction.

Even the bays where trucks and ambulances will be parked and stored will have a fire-protection system, more than is required.

Fire halls have burned, Weimer notes. We want this to be a model for other building projects in the community.

In the equipment bays at the west end of the building, most of the construction has been completed except for the floors and doors. The floors where the vehicles will be parked will be 8 to 9 inches thick and laid on a rebar mat, when the weather is warmer, Weimer explained.

Overall, the chief sees the new fire hall as meeting the needs of La Grande for some time.

The fire hall is centrally located for the community and actually has better access to many areas where the ambulance and fire truck are often needed.

And since the city will retain ownership of the existing fire hall, an ambulance or fire truck and crews could be based there when there is concern about flooding at the Island Avenue railroad underpass or other hazardous situations, Weimer said.

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