Police & Fire

Fire chief recommends bond for training center, upgrades to three stations

Posted on December 15th, 2021 By:

The Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One Board of Commissioners adopted a 20-year, $113 million capital facilities plan Tuesday and Chief Dennis Doan prioritized the most immediate needs that could be funded by a bond next summer.

Doan, who took over the department in April after serving in the same role in Boise, recommended that Station 51 on Kimball Drive be torn down and a larger, more modern facility built on the site at an estimated cost of $23.8 million. Swede Hill Station 58 and Artondale Station 59 would receive major remodels at price tags of $7.7 million and $8 million, respectively, and a five-story, live-fire training center would be constructed at Swede Hill for about $18.6 million.

Doan’s recommended projects and an $80 million bond to pay for them will be discussed over the next few months and refined into a final proposal before going to the voters, probably in August.

gig harbor fire chief Dennis Doan

Fire Chief Dennis Doan Photo courtesy of Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One

“We have time,” Doan said during the virtual commissioners meeting. “We need to go through all of these projects and hone it down, have a community conversation, a partner conversation, talk to the city. A couple months of getting feedback and then we’ll adjust to the things we learn.”

Comments can be mailed directly to Doan at ddoan@gigharborfire.org.

The district has no facility for live-fire training. Firefighters must leave the area to train only once every three years. They are beholden to fire academy schedules and unable to train during regular working hours. Doan wants a facility that meets industry standards for live-fire and modern rescue skills training at which the department can dictate training and hiring schedules and not have to pay overtime to receive it.

“This is a real concern for public safety,” the chief said. “We don’t want the first time a firefighter fights fire to be on your home. These are skills that need to be regularly practiced and perfected to improve the outcome for our community.”

Some expense could be recouped by renting the training center to other departments, but Doan urged caution.

“We don’t want to overpromise and underproduce,” he said. “It’s being built for Gig Harbor firefighters to train on and if there’s time and capacity for other departments, I’m absolutely on board.”

The Gig Harbor community has grown by more than 16% since 2010. Call volumes have increased 50% during that time. Most of the stations are 35 to 40 years old and don’t meet ADA or seismic standards. Some don’t provide sufficient living quarters to house adequate staff, facilities to accommodate a growing number of women, areas for responders and equipment to be decontaminated of agents that can cause cancer, and security systems. According to the capital facilities plan, completed by the Bremerton architecture firm Rice Fergus Miller, all of the stations will be improved, but 51, 58 and 59 are the most urgent.

Outside of the bond, the district next year intends to buy a $325,000 medic unit and $425,000 fire engine with end-of-year dollars from its general fund, and air packs with a $1.7 million federal grant. In 2023, it hopes to receive a $2.4 million state loan to purchase three fire trucks.