Woodside Fire Protection District firefighters and their emergency vehicles have long shared space with the district's administrative staff in the tight quarters of the one-story building on one acre at 3111 Woodside Road in Woodside.
A separation could be ahead as district officials plan a new and updated station. They no longer hold out hope of buying one of the two neighboring properties, Fire Chief Dan Ghiorso said. A new station at that location, while addressing technical issues, might not have room for offices, he said.
The fire district, which includes Woodside, Portola Valley and nearby unincorporated areas, has the right to acquire property through eminent domain, but would not use that option in this situation, the chief said. With two properties and two owners, neither of whom intends to sell or leave, "we're back to square one," he said.
Parking and space in general at the station is limited. Firefighters on duty and in need of sleep must seek quiet in a common dorm room. When an emergency call comes in, an audible alert sounds in the dorm and wakes up everyone, the chief said.
A new station would have individual rooms, with alerts sounding only where appropriate. A call for an ambulance would alert the room where the firefighters on ambulance duty are sleeping, for example.
When a truck returns from a call, because the garage does not have a rear entrance typical of fire stations, firefighters must interrupt traffic on Woodside Road and back into the bays. They must be skilled at it because the narrow bays allow just inches on either side. And with three bays instead of four, the ambulance sits outside every night, Chief Ghiorso said.
A larger station would solve those problems, and the district has $3.5 million put away for that purpose, the chief said. Assuming $3.5 million won't be enough, the Woodside-Portola Valley Fire Protection Foundation has offered to sponsor a capital campaign to solicit donations from district residents, he said.
Staff offices are now split between the Woodside Road station in Woodside and the Jefferson Avenue station in Emerald Hills. Another address for offices may be necessary. In a new station with larger bays and more sleeping rooms, offices may be crowded out.
"Any which way you look at it, I want my staff all together," Chief Ghiorso said. "Somehow or another, we will come up with the answer. We have to do it."
The district has considered moving the station, but trials testing how much time it would add to a response were unpromising. With a station farther east, closer to Interstate 280, the trip back up Woodside Road would add an unacceptable 30 seconds to response times, he said. Response times from a more westerly station, such as on Kings Mountain Road, would be lengthened by traffic, he said.
What is the best location? "It keeps coming back to, 'I think we're sitting on it,'" he said but probably with a basement and/or a second story. "We may have to go up, or down, or both," he said.
Chief Ghiorso said he expects to meet with an architect soon.