New station breaks ground

Firefighters to increase response times to Echo Lake, Lost Lake

Kelly Sullivan

Snohomish County Fire District 7 has broke ground at the site of its new station, which is expected to improve response time to Lost Lake and Echo Lake communities once open.

Fire Chief Gary Meek led the ceremony, which was hosted in the middle of a very empty, very large dirt lot on Tuesday, Sept. 12. In about a year, three bays for housing firefighting and emergency response vehicles, office and training spaces, and dorms will take up 11,000 square feet of the 4.9-acre property.

“Just like the public, we are anxious to get things underway,” he said.

Meek kept his sentiments short, so attending personnel could return to their response areas. The occasion represented a milestone for the agency. Station 33 will provide emergency services to the Lost Lake, Echo Lake, Maltby, Paradise Lake and Cathcart communities, he said.

Station 74 off Paradise Lake Road will be shut down once construction is complete, said Fire District 7 spokesperson Heather Chadwick. The building will then be repurposed for other uses such as training. Staff from that location will be moved over to the new station. The future facilities will be set up for one lieutenant and two firefighters to provide around-the-clock staffing, she said.

Station 74 has been taking calls since 2012 for the communities previously covered by Station 75, Chadwick said. Doors were closed at that site due to deep budget cuts during the Great Recession, she said.

In the years following, the agency conducted a study that showed response times could be improved in both the Echo and Lost Lake areas if Fire District 7 opened up a new station, Chadwick said. The land at 19424 Fales Road was purchased more than two years ago.

Meek said the initial cost of the property was $200,000, and the site had been foreclosed on, which saved the agency some money. An old trailer home had to be removed from the plot, which cost about $5,000.

Permitting and rezoning — the land was previously categorized as rural residential — lengthened the timeline, Meek said. Chadwick said the agency had to go through the exact same processes as any other business or organization would to get approval.

Within that time, Fire District 7 staff met with the public to gauge and garner support. Meek said the agency tries to work closely with homeowners when moving into a new neighborhood. Open houses were held in nearby communities.

In Maltby, former neighbors of Station 75 were able to help alleviate the concerns of those who would be living next door to the new station, he said.

“They were the first to stand up and say, ‘You are going to love these guys as your neighbors,’ ” Meek said.

Residents had expressed concerns about disturbances sirens may cause, he said, especially in the middle of the night. He explained staff are trained not to run lights or sirens while exiting the station, and the agency tries to mitigate noise issues.

Meek said the voters were also promised they would not be asked to approve any additional levies or bonds to build the new station. He said Fire District 7 has had the money set aside for about two years. Construction will cost about $5.4 million.

Chadwick said the agency plans ahead in the budget for capital improvements. She said they have always worked to fund projects with tax revenue from the two levies fire districts can pursue.

The EMS and fire levies are the agency’s only two funding sources. Aside from the levies, fire districts are limited to collecting no higher than 1 percent more in property tax revenue than the previous year. The board of commissioners has to agree each year whether to take the increase. The community must approve anything higher.

Voters passed a measure to restore the levy lid by about 60 percent during the primary election in August. The public also approved the merger of fire districts 7 and 3. The two agencies officially combined on Oct. 1, 2016.

Fire District 7 has eight stations, two of which are in Monroe. The agency has one fire chief, three assistant fire chiefs and two deputy chiefs that oversee different areas of management.

Fire District 7’s response area is divided into east and west battalions, Chadwick said. Stations 31, 32, and 33 are in the east battalion. She said organizing the 98.5-square-mile district that way helps with managing resources. Each battalion is assigned its own leader. There are eight total, so that two can be on duty 24/7 all year, she said.

Chadwick said no matter where the call is, the closest units are sent out. Response is not dependent on which battalion an incident occurs in, she said.

An open house will be held at the new station in the future, Chadwick said. Construction is expected to be complete by late summer in 2018.

Photo by Kelly Sullivan: Fire District 7 Chief Gary Meek led the groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the agency’s new station on Fales Road Tuesday, Sept. 12. The new facility is expected to open in about a year.


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