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Jacksonville to get long-awaited fire station upgrades

A $1.34 million state grant will allow long-awaited expansion of the current Jacksonville Fire Station while providing seismic reinforcement for the structure.

Business Oregon, a state agency, announced the Seismic Rehabilitation Grant award in May. The money will be combined with funds from the city’s urban renewal district for upgrades to the structure and addition of a second floor.

“With the seismic grant we have to stay within the footprint of the current fire station. What we are doing is just adding the second floor,” said interim fire Chief Wayne Painter. “The fire station was built in the 1950s. It is way, way overdue for any kind of upgrade.”

City Administrator Jeff Alvis said he thinks the work can be completed for less than $1 million beyond the state grant. The urban renewal agency last year borrowed $1.5 million for future projects, with up to $1 million earmarked for the fire station.

For more than a decade city officials and the community have discussed the need to either replace or rebuild the fire hall, which would be at risk in a major seismic event. The structure is located on C Street between North Third and Fourth streets.

The current brick and stone exterior will be retained. A drawing of what the building might look like shows a brick second story, but Painter said wood may be used instead to reduce the cost. The drawing shows a railing around the second floor reminiscent of one on the 1880 U.S. Hotel on California Street.

“We are trying to make it fit with the historical district of Jacksonville,” said Painter. The building is not on the National Register of Historic Places, but is within the designated historic core. As such, the changes will need approval from the town’s Historical and Architectural Review Commission as part of the approval process.

While the look will be historic, the interior will be modernized. Bay doors for three fire engines will be enlarged to handle the larger sizes of current-day fire equipment.

Other ground floor spaces will include a turnout room where outfits worn on fire calls can be stored and allowed to off-gas after exposure to foam. Currently they must sit in the equipment bays. There will also be a separate room for contaminated gear from medical assistance calls, and a tool room.

Three dorm rooms on the ground floor will be eliminated, and it will also house an entrance lobby, chief’s office, and a training room that will be available for group gatherings such as Fire Wise and CERT volunteer meetings.

Four dorm rooms for firefighters will be installed on the second floor along with a day room, workout area, study, laundry, bathrooms, dining room and kitchen.

A firefighter’s pole, a traditional device to allow firefighters to get rapidly from the second floor to the ground level, won’t be installed. The poles tended to produce ankle injuries, said Painter. Instead, a preliminary plan shows a circular slide to take personnel rapidly from the upper level when there is a call out.

A bond sale later this month by the state agency will allow for distribution of funds after an agreement is signed with the city. Once that is complete, selection of a design consultant can be undertaken. Proposed floor plans and the drawing were completed by ZCS Engineering and Architecture to accompany the grant application.

A proposed timeline includes rehabilitation design, structure and ground investigation, a hazmat survey and selection of a contractor by the end of the year. Permits will be sought and hazmat mitigation, if required, is scheduled for the first two months of 2021. Construction is scheduled to run from March through November 2021, with project closeout anticipated by the end of February 2022.

During construction, fire engines will likely be housed at Public Works, and a modular living quarters for firefighters may be put there also.

In addition to the state grant, two other grants have been secured by the department recently. An $8,000 grant from the Josephine County Youth Foundation will provide three more sets of turnouts and two gas monitors capable of detecting four different types of gases. A donation of pet oxygen masks from the Glenna Hale Scholarship Fund will allow the department to help pets who may have suffered smoke inhalation.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneFor more than a decade city officials and the community have discussed the need to either replace or rebuild the Jacksonville Fire Station which would be at risk in a major seismic event.