In the world of firefighting, saving seconds can save lives.
Richland officials broke ground Monday on a new fire station near Duportail Street and Queensgate Drive that could help trim response times by a third throughout the city's south end when it is completed in June 2015.
Responding to south Richland from the Keene-Gage fire station and the George Washington Way station takes about six to seven minutes depending on traffic conditions, Richland Fire Chief Grant Baynes said.
Response times in south Richland from the planned fire station -- station 74 -- should be between 90 seconds and four minutes.
"It'll definitely have a major impact," Baynes said.
The new $2.8 million station will be built on city-owned property adjacent to the city shops. About two-thirds of the existing parking lot will be covered by station 74. The existing city shops won't be affected and new parking should be built. The entire project should cost about $3.5 million including bond financing expenses, pre-design work and furnishings.
The new station would be the fourth in the city, which is also served by a station at Jadwin Avenue and McMurray Street.
Six new firefighter positions should be created by the new station.
Once built, the 11,648-square-foot station should feature six dorm rooms, four drive-through apparatus bays, office space for police and four-fold egress doors that open more quickly than other doors.
"Our goal is to get out of it as quickly as we can," Baynes said.
A recent city bond sale should pay for construction. Staffing and operations should be funded by increases to the city's monthly ambulance utility fee and electric utility occupation fee, which also will be used to pay the debt service.
Monday's ground-breaking was celebration and ceremony. Nine months ago, the fire station was destined for a different piece of land and was shaping up to exceed its budget by $500,000, Richland Parks and Public Facilities Director Joe Schiessl told the crowd Monday morning.
"We were kind of wallowing in our sorrows a little bit," he said.
Then Baynes discovered the design-build concept, which allows architects and contractors to develop a project from start to finish as opposed to the common design-bid-build process.
The design-build concept should allow the station to be built three to six months faster than the design-bid-build process would have, Schiessl said. The original location would have required the city to pave a road and install a traffic signal, which would have reduced the dollars available for the station's construction.
"We're getting more facility for our budget," Schiessl said.
Station 74 was the first municipal construction project valued between $3 million and $10 million in Washington to be approved by the state to use the design-build concept, Schiessl said.
"We're leaders in the design-build world," Schiessl said.
The station's location was chosen partly for its proximity to a proposed bridge project that would connect Duportail Street to the Richland Access Highway bypass. The bridge project has no timeline and lacks funding, but could further reduce the fire department's response times if built.
Station 74 should also improve regional fire coverage. With mutual aid agreements in place across the Tri-Cities area, firefighters from Kennewick often respond to blazes in Richland, while Richland firefighters do the same in Kennewick. This practice can spread the cities' fire departments thin at times.
Kennewick Fire Chief Neil Hines said Richland's station 74 would benefit both Kennewick and more rural areas of the county.
"As (Baynes) said, we're really trying to build a system here," Hines said, noting that Kennewick plans to break ground on a new fire station near Kellogg and 10th streets early next year.
Baynes told the audience , "It's not just about building a fire station for the Richland Fire Department ... it's about building a fire station for the whole community."
-- Drew Foster: 509-582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org