MEDFORD, Ore. – Medford firefighters got the final piece of the puzzle that will allow them to replace and repair old and outdated fire stations across the city.
Thursday, the Medford City Council approved a utility fee increase of about $2 per month for every resident and business for the next year. That money will be used to pay for the construction of a new police station, a new fire station, and renovations and two other fire stations.
Medford Fire Chief Gordon Sletmoe said firefighters have been struggling to work out of aging buildings for several years. Station 2, located at 8th and Lincoln streets, is the department’s busiest station, and it’s also the oldest, built in 1951. Sletmoe said a chief concern is that the building could collapse in an earthquake. It’s also too small, barely large enough to hold four firefighters and all of their equipment. The fire engine garage is also adjacent to living areas, which means those rooms receive diesel exhaust whenever an engine is started.
“It’s clearly not safe and it’s clearly not efficient,” Sletmoe said.
The station’s limitations also affect the time it takes to head out to fires. Pulling a fire engine out of the garage often requires a multi-point turn while dodging parked cars and street traffic.
“It impacts our response time,” Sletmoe said.
Other fire stations have similar problems because of their age and design. Fire Station 3 on Highland Drive is 60 years old, and Station 4 on Table Rock Road is 44 years old.
The utility fee increase will allow Medford Fire to build a new station on Stewart Avenue to replace Station 2. The money will also be used to make major renovations to Stations 3 and 4.
“Protection of the public is our number one concern,” Sletmoe said. “Coupled with that is protection of our own employees.”