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City Staff joins some of the Salida Fire Department crew to turn the first shovels-full of dirt at the groundbreaking for the new Salida Fire House. Photo by Jan Wondra.

A milestone was achieved last Friday afternoon, when the city of Salida, together with its Colorado-based construction partner Neenan Archistruction, broke ground on the new Salida Fire Station. Dozens gathered at the roughly six-acre parcel on Oak Street to get the construction phase of the project officially underway.

“I’ve waited a long time for this,” said just-retired Salida Fire Chief Doug Bess; who served 29 years in the Salida Fire Department, the last 11 years as Fire Chief. “Boy, it took a long time.”

Just-retired Salida Fire Chief Doug Bess grins as he pauses at the site of the new Salida Fire House. Photo by Jan Wondra.

The project provides an upgraded facility for Salida firefighters to train and serve the community. The ground-up development for the city’s new station will replace the existing fire station that has been in use for 121 years.

The $16.6 million project will provide 20,345 square feet of modernized space for apparatus, administration, training, and living quarters, supporting the firefighters and residents of Salida.

“A thriving community such as Salida needs a thriving fire department to protect our firefighters and community members,” said Mayor Dan Shore City of Salida. “Our current facility does not meet the standards that our firefighters deserve as it lacks proper decontamination zones, ADA accessibility and overall comfort. The upgrades to this facility represent a milestone in Salida, as it represents our everlasting commitment to the wellbeing of our community.”

The new Salida Fire Station, located at 611 Oak St., is designed for longevity with enhanced safety, training and sustainability features. The site will include a three-story training and hose-drying tower, allowing firefighters to conduct outdoor training and simulate rescue situations as well as a training classroom located at the front of the building, making it accessible for separate community access. Enhanced training capabilities aid the department in bolstering its Public Protection Class rating, potentially lowering property insurance premiums.

The design created by Neenan Archistruction is purposefully low-maintenance and focuses on long-term planning, using durable and sustainable finishes.

The new fire station aligns with Salida’s 2021 Climate Action Plan by incorporating highly efficient HVAC and electrical systems, natural daylighting, and solar energy solutions. These strategies reduce the building’s energy consumption compared to traditional methods, while the solar panels offset electrical costs, ultimately making the facility more environmentally sustainable and cost-effective. The space also accommodates future growth in the firefighter and reserve program, as well as evolving equipment needs.

It should be noted that with cancer rates rising amongst firefighters, the new fire station design aids with the safety and health needs of the firefighters by incorporating decontamination zones to prevent the spread of carcinogens and an isolated gear-washing space. Firefighters will be able to relax in the living quarters, which offer individual sleeping and shower rooms, a commercial-grade kitchen, a laundry room, and a fitness room. The sleep and recovery space is located specifically to decrease noise levels from the firetruck garage.

“We have felt inspired by learning the stories and needs of Salida’s firefighting crews, city staff, department leaders and City Council members. We view this as an opportunity to strengthen the Salida community, and honor those who serve,” said Donna Smith, VP of Business Development at Neenan Archistruction. “We are eager to partner with this community and bring to life a space that promotes safety and healing.”

The site has a projected completion of November 2024; while Neenan Archistruction and the City of Salida continue to collaborate to ensure the project is completed efficiently and is suitable for the station’s evolving needs.