By Laura Snider
The Daily Camera
SALINA, Colo. — Construction is set to begin on a new fire station here to replace the one that burned to the ground last September when the Fourmile Fire consumed more than 6,000 acres in Boulder County.
More than a dozen volunteers with the Four Mile Fire Department gathered on the bare patch of land where their Salina station once stood for a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning.
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"This has been like this for just about long enough," said Rob Bebee, who serves on the fire department's board, as he surveyed the empty lot and the dead trees that still stand behind it. "Now we have an opportunity to build a better station."
While the fire destroyed the station and the single engine left inside it, a team of firefighters from another protection district was able to save the neighboring Salina Schoolhouse, which was built in 1886.
"They only had the resources to save one" of the two buildings, said Bret Gibson, department chief.
The new fire station — which has been designed to fit in with Salina's historic character — should be finished in three months at a cost of between $160,000 and $185,000, Gibson said.
"The fire station, we have enough money to build," Gibson said. "But the fire engine, we're still looking to raise money for that."
The estimated cost to replace the engine and other equipment lost to the Fourmile Fire is about $500,000. The Boulder Hotel and Motel Association is holding a silent auction to raise money for the department on July 15.
Gibson said that even without the need to replace the station and the engine, the Four Mile Fire Department would have found itself in difficult financial straits this year. Ninety of the 425 homes in the 22-square-mile fire protection district were destroyed during the fire, and the homes that survived have lost a chunk of their value.
For a fire department that's largely funded by property taxes, that's bad news.
"My budget is going down about 35 percent," Gibson said.
When the station is finished and the engine is replaced, the department will be back up to four stations and seven firefighting vehicles in the area, which was home to 2,200 people before last September's fire.
"It's nice to have stations scattered throughout the district for response time," said Cash House, the district's training officer. House, who has been with the department for six years, lost his own home in the fire, but he says he plans to rebuild.
Dan Pullen, the architect who designed the new station and a Fourmile Canyon resident, said Tuesday that he thinks rebuilding the firehouse is important to the community.
"This is a real benchmark kind of day for the restorative process," he said.
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