Tacoma moves forward on $4.1M waterfront fire station renovation

The City of Tacoma has taken its first steps toward a $4.1 million renovation of a shuttered, 30-year-old, weather-beaten fire station on the Ruston Way waterfront.

On Feb. 24, Tacoma City Council’s public safety and human services committee approved a recommendation for the city to spend $411,105 on a contract with Reid Middleton for design and permitting work on Fire Station No. 5. The full council is scheduled to vote on the item, which will appear as a purchase resolution, during its meeting March 29.

According to Tacoma Fire Department representatives Jeff Jensen, Roger Edington, and Joshua Clarke, the fire station, which is located at 3301 Ruston Way and sits on a pier over Commencement Bay, is in need of seismic retrofitting, and the pier’s pilings suffer from “broken brace timbers, marine borer damage, split sections, and heavy fungal damage.” The damage is so severe, a fire boat typically moored at the station has been relocated to station 18 on the Tacoma tide flats. “It’s of pretty significant importance in terms of the Tacoma Fire Department providing marine services,” Edington told council committee members during Thursday’s meeting. By being located on the tide flats, the fire boat has to travel a significant distance in a five-mile-per-hour zone before it can increase its speed and respond to emergencies on Commencement Bay and near Point Defiance Park and Tacoma Narrows Bridge, added Edington. Renovating the fire station would also help in maintaining the accreditation it was awarded in 2009 by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.

The site has not had any major maintenance work or renovations since it opened in 1980. The $4,088,000 upgrade would be paid for by directing $3 million from bonds issued by the city two years ago, and $1,088,000 from a federal port security grant. The work would be completed in three phases. The first phase would include structural and seismic improvements and an interior remodel of the station for joint use by Port of Tacoma, Tacoma Police, the Coast Guard, and Tacoma Fire. The second phase would include new moorage for response vessels, breakwater to protect vessel moorage, and an electronics infrastructure to serve Port of Tacoma security personnel. The third phase would include a new upland apparatus bay and site improvements for an emergency service vehicle. If council approves the purchase resolution this month, design and permitting work would begin in April. The overall project would be completed in February 2013.

“I’m looking forward to it being open,” said Tacoma City Councilmember Marty Campbell. “It’s clearly one of our most visible fire stations in the city.”