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Airway Heights officials ask for money to build a new fire station

The three-bay fire station in Airway Heights is barely large enough to accommodate the department's engine truck.
Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
The three-bay fire station in Airway Heights is barely large enough to accommodate the department's engine truck.

Airway Heights officials are putting two measures before voters in the August 1 primary election.

The first asks whether the city should become part of the Spokane County Library District.

The second asks property owners to tax themselves to build a bigger city fire station.

Chief Mitch Metzger says the city’s fire station, built in 1968, was developed for the smaller trucks of that era. The current vehicles barely fit into the bay when they’re parked.

“The ladder truck is literally four inches from the door when it’s open and if we walk to the back of the ladder truck, you’ll see that there’s only about five feet off the end of the ladder truck. That’s not big enough. This ladder truck is a 75-foot ladder truck and we need a 110-foot ladder truck.”

He says the department has had to jerry rig its truck to get in and out of the current facility.

“The lights on the rear of the apparatus have been changed so they can go in and out of the station without getting broke off. Two inches of snow falls overnight, we try to drive this truck out and it was too high to clear the door and we’d break the lights," he said.

The department created a storage space in the fire station's parking bay.
Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
The department created a storage space in the fire station's parking bay.

The problems go on and on, Metzger says. The department has turned utility rooms into storage areas for fire gear. The bedrooms where the firefighters sleep are too small. The bathrooms where they shower after fires are not ADA compliant or conveniently located.

“This is the only place to do decon [decontamination] for our firefighters to get the blood borne pathogens off of them, to get any of the carcinogens off and then they walk right back out into the garage, where the carcinogens are still from everything we just had during the last fire. So, not ideal by any means," he said.

He says visiting firefighters shake their heads when they come for tours.

The city of Airway Heights has an option to buy this building to renovate for a new fire station.
Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
The city of Airway Heights has an option to buy this building to renovate for a new fire station.

Metzger says the city has purchased an option on a larger building several blocks away, but it will take some retrofitting to turn it into a modern fire station. The city is asking voters for permission to buy up to eight million dollars in bonds to pay for that renovation. Taxpayers with a home worth $300,000 would pay an extra $110 per year.

“If they’re able to support us and we’re able to get that new facility, it’s something that the community can be centered on and a place for them to come. They can hold events there. They can have training from us. It’s going to give us a better opportunity to staff with more volunteers. Our volunteers save the city literally millions of dollars in salaries every year.”

The department has transitioned from an all-volunteer unit to one with four paid firefighters as well as volunteers.

Airway Heights’ Proposition 2, as this is known, requires a 60% approval by voters. It also requires that at least 40% of the number of residents who voted in Airway Heights’ last November election cast ballots.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.