The South Whidbey Fire/EMS team begins moving into the new Bayview Station 36 over the next month. The station was built to meet a growing demand and completes the department’s final step of a 12-year-old strategic plan.
“Building this station was the vision of our commissioners in 2007. It will be the new central hub of the organization where our career crew and administrative staff will be housed during the day,” said Chief H.L. “Rusty” Palmer. “It also includes room for growth and reinstates the sleeper program where out-of-district volunteers stay overnight.”
The out-of-district program was instated two years ago to recruit experienced firefighters and EMTs from outside of the community, to fill vacancies on the primarily volunteer team. It has successfully attracted new volunteers, many from the Seattle area. However, until now, there has been no place for them to stay overnight.
When the Freeland station was originally built it had sleeping quarters. Those were converted to administrative offices. The Freeland station will now revert back to its original purpose and the old Bayview station will be repurposed to a maintenance facility where equipment is repaired. The centrally-located offices at the new Bayview station represent the first actual offices the department has had since it was founded in 1950.
Dwindling volunteerism in the fire service is a disturbing national trend. A study released earlier this year by the National Fire Protection Association, states that rural areas like South Whidbey pose the highest risk for public safety as the number of volunteers continue to decline, as the number of emergency calls rise.
In 2018, the department, responded to a record number of 2,698 calls, or an average of seven calls a day. Call volumes rise due to various reasons, including an aging population combined with an increasing number of residents and visitors.
“We’ve been doing more with less. This building creates new opportunities for us to serve the community as we continue to explore how to meet the demand,” said Chief H.L. “Rusty” Palmer. “With sleepers in both Bayview and Freeland, we can now attract more volunteers from out of the area. Eventually we have the ability to staff the new station 24 hours a day.”
The project broke ground less than one year ago. Valdez Construction in Oak Harbor has served as the general contractor. A majority of the construction was completed by Whidbey Island contractors and sub-contractors, with less than 1% in change orders. The station was built to LEED principles and allows for future installation of solar panels. A training facility will be located behind the building. Beginning in October, monthly commissioner and biannual all-district meetings will be at the new station.
Funds needed for the $5.8 million building were secured through bonds in 2017, including the additional 10% contingency funds and $500,000 anticipated sales tax. No new taxes were needed from the community to pay for the bonds. And due to the department’s excellent AA S & P rating, the interest rates were very low on the bonds. Final total cost is expected to land at $6.2 million.
Carletti Architects of Mount Vernon, took extra care to incorporate surrounding design elements of Bayview Corner to ensure it fits well into the neighborhood. It is located at 5579 Bayview Road, between Good Cheer and Goosefoot. So far it has been well received by locals.
“The construction has gone very smoothly for Goosefoot, especially since we are located right next door,” said Sandy Whiting, Executive Director of the Goosefoot Community Fund. “I am not sure that I can say what the impact will be on the future of Bayview Corner. However, having a fire station at Bayview is very important for the safety of our community.”
The public is invited to tour the station during an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on August 24. A dedication kicks off the event, followed by a Push Back Ceremony where the members push the fire engine into the bay of the new station. This fire service tradition honors the past when horse-drawn equipment could not be backed into the bay.