Calif. city may seek new home for destroyed fire station
Reasons to move the Santa Rosa station include the ability to build a bigger station, as well as positioning firefighters closer to high-density areas
By Kevin McCallum
The Press Democrat
SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Santa Rosa may not rebuild the $4 million fire station that burned to the ground during the October firestorm.
Fire officials say that before they rebuild the station atop Fountaingrove, where Station 5 has been located since 2015, they want to explore other sites, possibly one lower down Fountaingrove Parkway.
“To be honest, if the fire didn’t happen, we wouldn’t even be talking about this,” Fire Chief Tony Gossner said. “But we’ve got to at least look at it. If we don’t look at it, we’re not doing our job.”
Gossner plans to brief the City Council on the planning effort at its 4 p.m. meeting Tuesday.
There are a number of reasons why moving the station west and down the hill might make sense, Gossner said.
These include the ability to build a larger station, the need to position firefighters closer to current and future high-density housing developments, and plans for a new Rincon Valley station that might bolster response times on the east side of Fountaingrove, he said.
Talking about rebuilding elsewhere may seem counterintuitive to some, but Gossner said it’s his job to make sure stations with 50- to 80-year lifespans are built in the best possible locations.
“You’ve got to cover the city as strategically as possible looking out for the future,” Gossner said.
The move would be a reversal of the decadelong effort that led to Station 5 being moved from its longtime home near the base of Parker Hill Road to Newgate Court about 2 miles up the hill.
The Sonoma Grand Jury criticized the city’s firefighting capabilities in 2004, urging the city to quickly build six new fire stations to better serve a growing population.
The decision to move Station 5 to one of the highest points in the city was made in part to shorten the time it took for heavy fire engines to respond to calls in the hilly area, which has long been recognized as a high danger zone for fires.
Then-Deputy Fire Chief Mark McCormick at the time said trucks dispatched from Parker Hill Road reached Fountaingrove within five minutes only 63 percent of the time.
Some residents opposed the new location in 2010, arguing that its operation could generate excessive noise, traffic and aesthetic problems and would endanger children playing in nearby streets.
Construction went forward nevertheless, but Gossner said the Newgate Court site was never an ideal location. In a recession-era effort to save money, the department put the station on a 1.1-acre city-owned parcel that already housed a 60-foot tall, 750,000-gallon water tank.
The parking lot was small and there was no community room, Gossner said.
“We designed the station to fit a property that was too small to begin with, but we made the best of it,” Gossner said.
A site lower down in Fountaingrove, such as near the Keysight Technologies campus, might be preferable, Gossner said.
It could position firefighters closer to the higher-density areas of Fountaingrove, where a number of apartments and senior care facilities have been located in recent years, and where more are planned.
Copyright 2018 The Press Democrat