That could mean the difference between life and death.
When Kennewick city officials were considering spending $4.7 million to build and equip a fifth fire station, they talked a lot about getting more quickly to fires and medical emergencies.
The last fire station in Kennewick was built 20 years ago. And since then, they said, the city’s growth had outpaced fire department resources.
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The department’s goal is to respond to emergency medical calls in four minutes and fires in five minutes. But until Monday, travel time to many parts of southwest Kennewick was closer to eight.
That changed with the opening of Fire Station 5 at South Kellogg Street and West 10th Avenue.
“It’s been a long time planning,” Neil Hines, operations chief for the Kennewick Fire Department, told the crowd of about 275. “It’s very difficult to put a fire station into an existing neighborhood.”
The city says the $3.775 million station also will provide backup for other fire stations those crews are out on calls.
“We’re trying to build a station we can carry into the future,” Hines said.
The 12,500-square-foot station fire station has living quarters for six and space to park three to four fire and emergency vehicles.
The floor plan was based on a prototype station design developed for the Kennewick and Richland fire departments. The city issued bonds to pay for the project.
The new station has polished concrete floors, long-lasting LED lights and a low-water garden that the Benton County Conservation District helped install. There’s also a community classroom that the residents can use for meetings of up to 15 people.
Denny Waters, retired Kennewick fire battalion chief who served for 33 years, said the doors in the main bay were an improvement on what he remembers from the older stations where he worked.
“The station doors were so narrow you had to pull the (side-view) mirrors back,” he said.
Steve Bailie, a retired firefighter paramedic who also worked for Kennewick for 33 years, said there was no comparison with the new and old station.
The new station has wide, lightweight glass doors on one side and large mechanical garage doors near the other, while older stations had heavier, bulkier doors that would not work mechanically.
The ceremonies, which included representatives from the city of Kennewick, Richland, Walla Walla fire and other community members.
“When you get a chance to walk through this building, I hope you’re as amazed as I was,” Kennewick Fire Chief Vince Beasley told the crowd. “It is a fire station, but it is fabulous.”
Mayor Steve Young noted the new station was finished under budget and on time.
“This was not one of those typical, easy-to-get done jobs,” he said.
Beasley credited the Kennewick City Council and Young for making the station possible.
“Once we showed the need, they responded immediately,” Beasley said. “The citizens will reap the rewards.”
Hines said the station will start with at least three firefighter crew members, one truck and one medic van. Right now, Hines said the station will experiment with what works best.
“In time, we’ll figure out what the best location is for all those (vehicles),” he said.