Firefighters smashing walls, breaking through doors at old station
El Dorado Hills firefighters have a head start on the old Station 84’s demolition (officially slated for sometime this winter). They’re using the old building as a safe training ground for dangerous work.
Using electric saws that cut through metal as well as wood, sledgehammers and other tools of the trade, firefighters in full gear have practiced difficult scenarios — breaking through walls, knocking down doors and cutting holes in the roof. The Francisco Drive station’s interior looks like a war zone with busted cinderblocks and glass littering the floor and insulation hanging from the ceiling.
“We don’t often have the opportunity to do destructive training like this,” said El Dorado Hills Fire Marshal Mike Lilienthal.
“Firefighters get to work with tools in a controlled environment and practice technique so they’re more efficient,” he explained. “Ultimately what we’re looking at is speed.”
Speed was achieved when Capt. Chris Storz, engineer Mike Gygax and firefighter Jeno Inzerillo carved a ventilation hole in the station’s roof Tuesday afternoon. It took quite a bit longer for this Village Life editor to get the chain saw running though I did manage to cut a straight line and keep all my limbs.
“The ventilation of a roof is one of the most critical actions in a fire,” Lilienthal said, adding that it must be done at the right location and time to help the firefighters and any victims inside. Vent the roof at the wrong time and the results could be catastrophic. Lilienthal has an upcoming training planned that simulates a firefighter injury when he falls through the roof.
Station 84 serves many north-side El Dorado Hills neighborhoods, including Summit, Southpointe, Vista Del Lago, Promontory, Marina and Lakehills. Firefighters moved out of the old building and into temporary quarters by neighboring Burger Hut this past summer.
The station, named after late fire chief Bob Cima, was built in 1982 and couldn’t handle another remodel. The roof leaked, the plumbing was less than reliable and the fire department had out grown the space, which has a small engine bay that can’t adequately handle today’s fire equipment and lacks quarters for female firefighters. Discussions to replace the station began in 2007.
The project was approved in 2012 and included in the recently approved El Dorado Hills Fire Department five-year plan. Apparatus replacements totaling $1.215 million and a $10 million training facility in the El Dorado Hills Business Park are also part of that plan.
Last month the El Dorado Hills Fire Board adopted its 2013-14 budget which includes $4.236 million for Station 84’s demolition and new construction — 22 percent of the entire $18.785 million budget. Funding for the project comes from a combination of development fees (roughly half the cost), the district’s capital equipment fund and general reserves.
A massive project like this couldn’t have been possible without prudent planning and the small but steady growth in the fire department’s property tax revenue stream the last couple of years, which, combined with some “out-of-the-box” thinking, has also allowed the department bring back a shift battalion chief “alleviating a huge strain on our admin chiefs and allowing for increased levels of safety and accountability, improved training for our crews and significant improvements to the volunteer programs,” according to Chief Dave Roberts.
In 2010, anticipating a sharp revenue drop, officials created a Budget and Negotiations Committee and reorganized everything from personnel to paper clip purchases.
“Through a combination of solutions, including early retirement incentives, wage and benefit cuts, cost contributions to retirement, restructuring of the organization, deferred purchases, relaxed staffing requirements by the labor group and an increased scrutiny on the costs of everything from paperclips to PG&E we were able to adjust and live within the reduced revenue stream without a reduction in service delivery or an increase in response time to our community,” Roberts said.
“We are encouraged, but remain very cautious,” the chief said of the budget turnaround.