New fire station to be built inside Building 1

DOWNEY ‚àí As residents continue to debate the merits of the newly-approved Tierra Luna Marketplace, city officials this week are highlighting another aspect of the 77-acre development, a 8,000-sq.-ft. fire station, which will provide a much-needed upgrade to the city's fire department while ultimately helping firefighters better serve the neighborhoods of south Downey.Concerned about the strain Tierra Luna might place on the Downey Fire Department, the city negotiated with developer Manarino Realty and requested a new fire station be included inside the 1.5 million-sq.-ft. office and retail center, which will soon replace Downey Studios. With the Downey Fire Department already at 100% capacity, Brian Saeki, the city's community development director, said Tierra Luna Marketplace would inevitably stretch the department above and beyond its limits. "After analyzing the development, we realized there could be some public safety difficulties that would draw on our fire department," Saeki said. "We thought adding a fire station would be a viable solution to these public safety issues." As part of the development agreement, the developer is required to spend up to $4.4 million on the design and construction of the facility, which will be stationed inside the historic Building 1, which once housed the offices of early industrialist E. M. Smith and later NASA's Apollo space program. Saeki said the fire station headquarters, which will span a minimum space of 8,000 sq. ft., must be completed within two years after the city requests its construction. City officials, however, have yet to submit a formal request to initiate the design and construction of the fire station. Upon completion, the city will enter into a lease agreement paying back 5% of the total construction costs every year for 20 years after which the land and station will be owned by the city. Fire Chief Lonnie Croom praised the new station, which he said has been a work in progress for nearly a decade. "We've been trying for 10 years," he said. "We've been looking to improve our locations for quite some time." Built decades ago, Croom acknowledged the current four stations are slowly wearing down. Fire Station No. 2, located at 9556 Imperial Hwy, and Fire Station No. 3, at 9900 Paramount Blvd., were dedicated 54 years ago and have been in service ever since. Fire Station No. 4, which is located at 9349 Florence Ave., was dedicated in 1959 and Fire Station No. 1, which replaced the city's original firehouse, was relocated to 12222 Paramount Blvd in 1974. Croom believes the new fire station at Tierra Luna will take some pressure off the aging fire stations. Once complete, the new fire station headquarters will in fact replace Fire Station No. 2, which, according to Croom, is a little too far southeast making it tough to answer calls in the adjacent neighborhoods of south Downey. The firehouse will contain an engine company, paramedic squad, and truck company managed by about six to nine Downey firefighters. Croom said no additional staff will be hired, but current firefighters will be relocated to the new site. "This is a great location, a great spot - I'm excited about it," Croom said. "We tested the response times from that location and they were very positive." While the specifics of the new station are still forthcoming, Croom is hopeful the facility will provide the department will some upgrades in technology and safety including state-of-the-art rooms to clean emergency and protective gear and storage areas for reserve equipment and command vehicles. The fire station design, which will be approved by the City Council, will be a joint venture between the developer and the city, said Saeki. Croom is confident the firehouse will become a lasting symbol of Downey's past and future, serving the community for years to come. "The residents in south Downey will benefit from a state-of-the-art station in a historical building," said Croom. "The history will remain in the firehouse forever. We're taking a lot of pride in it. It's going to be something the community will be proud of."

********** Published: February 2, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 42