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Unfunded fire station seeks design

Matt Zalaznick
Braden Marker and Dave Eich of the Vail Fire and Emergency Services prepare their gear Monday before hiking up the steep slope in West fire to help out with the wildfire above Chamonix.
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Regardless, the Vail Fire Department is looking for an architect with qualifications to build the town a third firehouse, whether it’s in West Vail or elsewhere, Fire Chief John Gulick says.

“This doesn’t mean it’s going to go yet,” he says.

The consultant is reviewing studies dating back to the early 1970s on what size Vail needs a fire department. Results of the study are supposed to be presented to the Town Council at its June 3 meeting. Architects are being sought now to speed things up in case the council decides a new station is necessary, Gulick says.

“We can have it ready to go when the council triggers it, if they say “yes,'” Gulick says.

Building a third fire station has been a source of controversy since 1981, when the town took over the Vail Fire District and promised to build another firehouse. A 1984 Eagle County District Court order required the town to build the firehouse by 1985. The order was never executed, however, and succeeding Town Councils have postponed all significant decisions.

Vail’s two fire stations are removed from Vail Village, on Vail Road and Meadow Drive and in East Vail.

Vail’s long, linear layout, meanwhile, sometimes stretches fire-response and strains resources.

Gulick says the ideal spot for a new station would be somewhere in West Vail.

“There’s potentially six sites out there,” Gulick says.

There are three proposed locations in West Vail. Gulick says the ideal spot is a 4-acre swath of empty land behind Wendy’s recently purchased by the town for $2.3 million.

The town, however, has not specified whether it was purchased for a fire station. Other potential locations for a new fire station include include a parcel behind the West Vail Lodge and another space at the end of the North Frontage Road, near Arosa drive. The former would be a tight fit; the latter would require extensive excavation of a hillside, Gulick says.

The land behind Wendy’s would allow construction of a state-of-the-art, drive-through station at which fire trucks wouldn’t have to back in, Gulick says.

Though there is no budget for the project, the new station is envisioned as at least a 10,000- to 11,000-square-foot building on 1.5 acres of land, with three bays for fire trucks, office space, living quarters for firefighters, and a training room.

“The goal is to better serve the West Vail area,” Gulick says. “What we’re trying to do is put our tools in place. We just want to see if three or four architectural firms are interested in doing this.

“But we’re not sure where we go from here,” he adds.

Other proposals are to move the village firehouse to the other side of the main Vail interchange or to the Vail Municipal Building, where a station would likely replace the helipad between the South Frontage Road sand Interstate 70. Under the latter design, the fire and police departments would likely share space in a new public safety building, Gulick says.

A final suggestion – building the station alongside or within the affordable apartment complex at Middle Creek – does not appear to have much support. One reason is that it would shove 58 apartments out, Gulick says.

But there are other uncertainties facing the project and the fire department – funding.

“That’s what it’s all about – a funding mechanism,” Gulick says.

Another is ongoing discussions of merging with the Eagle River Fire Protection District, which has jurisdiction over the rest of eastern Eagle County, from Red Cliff and Minturn to Wolcott.

“We’re all looking at it very objectively, as far as what’s best for Vail and all the taxpayers throughout the valley,” Gulick says. “Fires stations need to be strategically located to serve each area of the community with the appropriate response.”

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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