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The City Journals

Fire department improves coverage, efficiency with new station, upgrades to others

Jul 16, 2018 12:17PM ● By Travis Barton

West Valley City elected officials perform the honorary “hose cutting” of the new fire station 76 in southwest WVC. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

It was a few years ago when Renee Layton’s daughter fell out of a window. She called 911 and the fire department showed up—14 minutes later.

Since 2001 Layton has lived in Diamond Summit, one of the most southwestern neighborhoods in West Valley City. The fire department’s response time had nothing to do with quality and everything to do with location. “It wasn’t their fault, that’s just how far they were,” Layton said. 

It was a problem for an underserved part of the city, but not anymore.

West Valley City opened its newest fire station, station 76, on June 26 at 5372 South Upper Ridge Road with an honorary “hose cutting” ceremony and open house to celebrate the grand opening.

“This station means the world to me,” Layton said at the open house. “Because now we’re talking a handful of minutes, that's so much better and it'll help our part of the city feel more connected.” 

The station’s proximity to the southwest corner shaves off critical seconds when responding to calls. “A couple of minutes can make a huge difference,” said Mayor Ron Bigelow. “So having this station here is a major step forward for the city. We can now serve the residents of this part of our fair city in a more rapid and efficient way.” 

With the closest station being station 71 at 4160 South 6400 West, there was a big push for this station, said Fire Chief John Evans, even more so after Unified Fire closed another station nearby. 

The fresh new fire house comes as part of a three-station overhaul. Station 76, which finished two months ahead of schedule, brings the total fire houses in the city from five to six. But stations 71 and 72 (4100 South 4314 West) are being completely redone. Station 72, the busiest in the city with 3,349 reported calls in 2017, was demolished and is being rebuilt. It’s set to open later this summer. 

Station 71 was demolished in July. Crews from 71 will be moved to 76 during the nine-month construction period before returning. A new crew will be hired to staff station 76. 

Each station will now have their own set of amenities, city officials said. All firefighters will have private bedrooms, large bays to house apparatus equipment (fire trucks are much bigger than they were in the ’70s when stations were originally built), work out rooms and separate areas for industrial washing machines to clean their gear.

Jake Arslanian, WVC’s director of facilities and construction management, pointed out the stations will be connected via a wireless system and have “sophisticated” cooling units to make the building green without spending lots of money. 

Evans said the cost of all stations is about $9 million “which is really pretty amazing.” Arslanian said they are at $7 million right now. With two of them being rebuilt and the third being built on city owned property, they were able to save money not needing to purchase property. 

Arslanian, who has family living in nearby Diamond Summit as well, said the city council challenged them to build three stations “for the same dollars we had for two.”

“We were directed to build smart and not dump a lot of money into it,” Arslanian said. “Square footage wise, this is much cheaper than a lot of firehouses throughout the valley, it has the look, the efficiency and the capability of any fire station in the valley.” 

He said by having EDA architects design both stations so similarly, the contractor, Poulsen Construction, bought materials in larger quantities, thereby reducing costs.

Other city departments were involved at each step, Arslanian said, meaning they never had to repeat something. 

“Because we were all involved it was a team effort,” he said. “We have a successful building that we didn’t have (major) change orders.”

Total call volumes have increased by 26 percent from 2013 to 2017, according to the WVCFD 2017 year-end report. It’s an increase of about 1,000 a year from 9,669 in 2013 to 12,181 in 2017. Evans doesn’t expect those numbers to decrease in the coming years.

“By having an extra station now,” Evans said. “When those first stations are out (on calls), we're going to be able to pull another station into cover. It's just going to be better for all of our responses, and cover the city a lot better.”

Layton’s daughter recovered from her fall having only suffered bumps and bruises, but Layton is now fully recovered from the traumatic event with the mental comfort of a nearby fire station. She said that goes for all her neighbors too. 

“We're excited for having that peace of mind knowing that response time can be so quick,” she said. “It's been a long time coming.”