Renton is getting a new fire station and engine that are meant to improve response times in the Kennydale and downtown core areas.
Station 15, off Interstate 405 on North 30th Street, will service the Kennydale/North Renton area, the freeway and some Landing and Boeing calls. A new water tower will also be built on the property to serve Kennydale.
This more than $5.6 million station was promised to voters when they decided to create the Renton Regional Fire Authority, separating it from the city in an April 2016 election.
The new building is expected to begin operations Feb. 1. The new engine has already started service out of station 12 to North Renton.
The fire engine is from the RFA reserve fleet until they can afford a new truck.
Staffing will be from current RFA staff along with some new hires. There will be about 12 firefighters at the Kennydale location, said Captain Will Aho, who is on the new station’s planning committee.
The North Renton location was identified in the 1990s by former fire staff, and purchased in 2001. The choice in area was based off projected growth at the time.
Station 15 is funded by saved city tax dollars, but required voter approval of RFA separating from the city.
RFA Deputy Chief of Support Services Chuck DeSmith said this has been in talks as early as 1983, but there wasn’t the funding needed to make it happen.
The Kennydale area has seen longer response times than other areas of the city. The closest station takes nine minutes to respond with their aid car, according to public records requested for the 90th percentile of arrival times for the last six months.
That facility, station 12, took 10 minutes, 25 seconds to respond with their engine, 90 percent of the time. Other fire authority engines that respond to the area take almost 16 minutes to arrive, according to those records.
Aho said station 12 has had longer response times, and saw increasing calls. A public records request shows that in the last six months, 90 percent of calls took eight minutes, 12 seconds to arrive at the scene.
The standard Renton Regional Fire Authority strives for is around seven minutes, DeSmith said.
Station 12 had the second highest number of calls in 2016, with 3,318 incidents and 4,608 times the fire authority responded to a call. Twelve also covered a number of areas before station 15 was built, including Kennydale, Highlands, President Park and Sierra Heights.
Not only will station 15 cover the long response times to Kennydale, but it will also support neighborhoods that have longer arrival times in their usual services.
The service map was realigned to accommodate for a new Kennydale station, DeSmith said. He and Aho both said there was a lot of planning to ensure this new service would create efficient response times.
The station will also be close to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, Seahawks training facility. Some major investment areas along Lake Washington, DeSmith said, are also important to protect.
“We want to cover everyone, but definitely some areas of the city, and Station 15, will cover those areas that are growing that have probably the highest call volume,” DeSmith said.
The new Kennydale location will respond to the Landing to help with the response load for Station 11 as well, Aho said.
The downtown station 11 location covers Boeing, the Landing, downtown and many seniors in the service area.
It had the highest calls in 2016, with 4,372 incidents and 6,204 responses.
Fifteen will also help Bellevue with freeway coverage of I-405.
Having a one story station, and accordion-style side doors will help response times, both Aho and DeSmith said. It will be one of the smaller fire stations with RFA, DeSmith added.
Aho said the design was meant to create a healthy environment for the firefighters. There will be no carpet to keep contaminants out of the living quarters. The rooms that would track more dirt like maintenance shop and de-contaminant rooms are on the other side of the station.
While some neighbors raised questions about having a fire station and water tower in the area, it’s been well received, DeSmith said.
The Kennydale area currently uses pumps, and if an earthquake hit, a tower would provide readily available water. It also helps regular water capacity for those living there and firefighters at the new station.
The water tower is estimated to be complete by July 2020.
Aho said they’re asking for patience from the Kennydale neighborhood as construction continues and they see heavy equipment in the area. The city will try to finish the water tower quickly, but also correctly, he said.
There will be a project update on the station and reservoir at the Kennydale Neighborhood Association meeting on Jan. 29, at Kennydale Elementary School. The station 15 ribbon cutting will be on Saturday, Feb. 23.