The Menlo Park Fire Protection District will eliminate a significant part of its history when it replaces the oldest of its seven stations, Station 4, in the next couple of years.
Located at the corner of Alameda de las Pulgas and Valparaiso Avenue in Menlo Park, Station 4 was built in 1949, when that intersection was on the outskirts of the city in an undeveloped area, a far cry from where it is now in a robustly populated residential area.
The replacement comes on the heels of a new Station 6 in downtown Menlo Park, which will have its official opening on June 22, and the 2016 opening of Station 2 in East Palo Alto, according to Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman.
"At 70 years old, Station 4 is pretty tired," he said. "Right now we're moving forward with the architect, and we want to go out for bid within the next 12 months."
Construction will follow the pattern of the other two stations. The district bought the home behind the existing station two years ago for $3.2 million to house the station crew while construction is taking place.
After the new station is completed and the firefighters move in, the house will be torn down to make way for parking and a driveway so that firetrucks can drive in through the back doors and exit quickly through the front doors to respond to emergencies.
The existing station has no back doors, so firefighters have to back the trucks into the bays so that they can exit driving forward onto Alameda de las Pulgas.
"Backing in is unsafe, so drive-through firehouses are the way to go," Schapelhouman said.
The proposed station design includes three bays, and the new station would be one and a half stories high to accommodate a fire engine, an aerial ladder truck, and living space for seven firefighters, two of whom will be paramedics.
The station will have up-to-date features, including an expanded number of electrical outlets, exhaust ventilation to remove the diesel fumes that the trucks emit, and expanded storage for gear, Schapelhouman said.
Exposure to fumes from dirty firefighting gear and truck exhaust has been linked to high cancer rates among firefighters.
"Separation between the dormitory areas and the fire equipment and gear is essential for firehouses today for health reasons," the chief said.
Station 4 has the largest area served by the district, with 37% of the response area in Atherton, 44% in Menlo Park, and the rest in San Mateo County's Sequoia Tract and West Menlo Park.
The fire district board approved Station 4 as the district's next replacement project in 2018.
The district is estimating that it will take a year from now to get approval from the city for its plans and at least another year to complete the project, Schapelhouman said.
The station is expected to cost between $18 million and $20 million, compared with about $11 million for Station 6, which has one bay because it's on a space-restricted site, he said.
In contrast, the present Station 4 was built for $27,603, and the four lots on which it sits were purchased for $5,400 in 1946.
Station 6 had to be built in stages because it took time to accumulate the money to do the work, Schapelhouman said.
"The good news is we are in an up economy so more money is available," he said.