Replacement in works for cramped Pismo fire station


When an emergency call is dispatched to Station 64 in Pismo Beach in the middle of the night, firefighters there rush through a familiar routine: Shake sleep from their eyes. Pull on boots. Leave four-bedroom modular home. Exit gate in the police department’s chain-link fence. Unlock fire station. Slip on gear. Jump in engine. Leave station.

Because the firefighters sleep in the prefabricated home that’s been squeezed into the parking lot behind the police department and former City Hall building — not in the station — this routine can add one-and-a-half to two minutes to an engine team’s response time, firefighters at the station said this week.

While that won’t change soon, the firefighters are one step closer to getting a new station. This week, the city’s Planning Commission approved construction of a new, 10,148-square-foot station. But actually breaking ground on the $4 million to $5 million station is at least a few years away because of a lack of money.

“We’re losing time on every call because of the turnout time,” added County/Cal Fire Chief Rob Lewin.

The firefighters work at a 2,650-square-foot fire station that was built in 1960 to accommodate an all-volunteer department. The city started contracting with Cal Fire in 2001 for fire protection. Firefighters have stayed in the modular home since the city bought it, set it up and furnished it for about $124,000 in 2005, said Finance Director George Edes.

Firefighters hoped to have a new station at 65 Ventana Way that would also include more space for vehicle storage, equipment rooms, office space, an exercise room and yard storage. But budget cuts and a reduction in development fees have prevented that from happening, though a new station remains a priority goal for the Pismo Beach City Council, said associate planner Michael Gruver.

Funds also went to the $1.25 million renovation of the Shell Beach Fire Station in 2008.

Lewin said a new station would cut the response time to James Way and Oak Park Boulevard in half — currently four minutes, 22 seconds, not including a few minutes to get ready —and provide better coverage to the community by having the two fire stations located farther apart.

Response times to the downtown area would likely increase slightly, Lewin said, though he didn’t specify exactly how much more time it would take firefighters to get there.

“The overall benefit to all sides of the city is the net gain,” he said.

Firefighters at Station 64 responded to 1,350 calls in 2010, an average of nearly four a day.