Five of Portland’s seven mainland fire stations need to be replaced, according to a consultant’s report presented to Portland city councilors last week.

The report, “Functional Assessment of Fire Station Locations,” was completed for the Fire Department last October by Facets Consulting of Flagstaff, Arizona. It said the stations are properly placed to meet the city’s needs and to keep response times well within an eight-minute standard, but it concluded that the buildings have problems and should be replaced.

Portland’s Engine 11 station on Ocean Avenue, which was built in 1956, has “a significant slab-settling problem in the dorm room area,” the consultant said, and is most in need of replacement. Also on the list is the Central Station, a 93-year-old building at 380 Congress St. that has bay doors barely wide enough for modern trucks and rescue units.

The report was presented to the City Council’s Health and Human Services and Public Safety Committee last week as the city prepares to renovate the North Deering Fire Station at 380 Allen Ave. A kitchen fire in September 2017 closed the station. Its units were shifted to Ocean Avenue and the Riverton station at 1592 Forest Ave.

“Our goal is to be back in there by summer,” Fire Chief David Jackson said. “A lot of what we do at Allen Avenue will be considered the new standard. We will bring it up to the needs of the service today and bring it up to code.”

Jackson said much of the new report was not a surprise – it detailed aging fire stations and recommended expanded staffing. Most important, he said, is that it confirmed that the department has stations in all the right places to serve the city.

The city does not have a schedule or cost estimate for replacing other stations. City Manager Jon Jennings said study findings will be considered in his upcoming budget and as he and Jackson map out the department’s future. They are also working on a five-year plan to begin defining the needs and when they can be met.

“We have to take investing in our fire stations seriously,” Jennings said. “We are not looking to close any stations. We are looking to rebuild them.”

The consultant said more study is needed on how and when stations should be replaced, and offered no cost estimates. It did say 50 years should be considered the life expectancy of a fire station.

The last new station built in the city is on Munjoy Hill at 134 Congress St. It is 41 years old. The remaining mainland stations are at least 50 years old.

Not only are the buildings in need of updates to meet current codes and energy-efficiency standards, but they are often outmoded in terms of firefighting strategies, and have a lack of practical accommodations for women now serving as firefighters, the report said.

Jackson said fire stations need better living accommodations than bunkrooms designed only for men, and better restrooms. Individual bedrooms would allow firefighters a space to decompress after responding to emergencies, he said.

The report also recommends splitting the city into two coverage zones while adding a new on-duty chief officer for the second zone. Existing companies would also be better served with three firefighters instead of two on duty at each station, the report suggests. It has not been determined if and how the department could meet the staffing recommendations.

The $28,000 study was launched in March 2017 and included site visits and meetings with staff, as well as the data collection.

David Harry can be contacted at 781-3661 ext. 110 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: DavidHarry8

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