Jackson Hole Fire/EMS will continue working out of its temporary fairgrounds fire station for longer than planned due to some unforeseen hurdles during demolition of Fire Station No. 1.
“It wasn’t built the way it was drawn,” Fire Chief Brady Hansen said.
Not only will the rebuild of the main fire station take longer than planned. It’s going to cost “significantly” more, Hansen said.
“I hope to have dollar figures very soon,” he said.
To officials’ surprise, parts of the original structure at 60 E. Pearl that designers and carpenters planned on keeping were missing vital steel and rebar.
“The fire department went into the project with every intent to save as much of the existing structure as possible with the purpose of saving money,” Hansen said. “But all the reinforcement that was supposed to make it strong was either absent or far less structurally sound. The portion of the structure we intended to save was crumbling.”
The unstable base was a surprise, Kurt Dubbe of Dubbe Moulder Architects said.
But Dubbe doesn’t see it as a setback.
“It afforded us an opportunity to come up with a new design,” Dubbe said. “We’re able to slightly improve the interior layout and function of the interior spaces.”
For years firefighters have been advocating for a new downtown fire station.
The remodel will bring the firehouse up to code. It will be seismically sound with updated exhaust modifications, a new roof, support walls, on-site apartments, training space and separate locker rooms for male and female firefighters.
The original station, called “the three-truck fire house,” was designed and built in 1964, Teton County facilities maintenance manager Paul Cote said.
Additions were added in 1974, 1991 and 2004.
“There was no building inspection in the county [in 1964] so I guess you could do whatever you wanted,” Cote said. “But any reputable builder would have put those things in. It is shocking.”
‘Ecstatic’ to be out
Despite not being able to build the new fire station using some of the original walls and foundation, Cote said the building functioned OK when firefighters were occupying it.
“There weren’t any visible signs there was anything wrong,” Cote said.
But the firehouse would likely have crumbled in an earthquake, Cote said.
Hansen and Battalion Chief Matt Redwine said seeing the crumbling base was alarming.
“If only we had known then what we know now,” Redwine said. “We were ecstatic we got out of there.”
Hansen said it’s a good reminder of how important it is to build the new station correctly.
“We have to get this right,” Hansen said. “It’s going to lead to a well-constructed building that will serve as a very capable fire station for the next few generations.”
The plan was for firefighters to move back in to the newly constructed fire station in August 2020. But now it will likely be sometime in 2021, Hansen said.
Contractors, designers and construction workers recognize the urgency of efficient work on the county’s main firehouse.
“It is important for the community to understand that nobody expected to encounter the conditions that we did,” Dubbe said. “It would be professionally irresponsible to have embraced the existing conditions once we realized they were structurally deficient.
“We want to turn this around as successfully as possible so there is no interruption with emergency response.”
Redwine said the department’s response times from its temporary fire station at the Teton County Fairgrounds, where they’ll continue working, have been “great.”
Once the new design is final a change order will be presented to the Town Council and Board of County Commissioners, which will give the final stamp of approval.
The town and county will likely absorb the extra costs of the project.
Jackson Hole Fire/EMS was awarded $6.8 million in the 2017 specific purpose excise tax election for the department projects. The department also had $2.3 million left from the 2014 SPET election.
The remodel of the temporary firehouse and the rebuild of the new station was expected to cost about $7 million.
The new price tag will be presented to elected officials once the newest design plan is completed.