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Vail Village fire station set for renovation

VAIL, Colorado – Vail did business a little differently when Bill Pierce designed the town’s first fire station, built in 1973. Work starts next week on an extensive renovation of that old structure.

To help save money back then, firefighters did much of the construction work themselves. And, Pierce said, the building also includes lumber, plywood and other material the fire chief found on the side of the road.

“He’d just throw it in his truck and bring it back,” Pierce said.

Over the decades, the station has been upgraded a few times, but when current fire chief Mark Miller took Vail Town Council members on a tour Tuesday, it was obvious the building is in need of some serious help.

The station’s truck bays are neat and tidy, but only one of those bays is big enough for the department’s big ladder truck. At the back of the garage space is a former office with a tangle of wires in the open, where an office wall used to be. Miller said solving that spaghetti riddle will be a major job, since nearly 40 years of wiring would have to be decoded.

Heading upstairs, council members got a quick tour of the firefighters’ living quarters. The southwest side of the upstairs is as dark as a second floor can be, and looks like something you might find in an old neighborhood in a college town.

“You can put firefighters here, but it would be illegal to house prisoners,” said longtime department veteran Mike McGee said.

Beyond the wiring and housing, the roof is shot, Miller said, and the snow storage area on the north side is in need of some work.

To fix up the place, Pierce has designed an extensive renovation that will fit mostly within the station’s existing building footprint.

The plans call for public restrooms and an information center on the station’s northeast corner. Miller said visitors often stop in for either a bathroom break or with questions about finding Lionshead or other parts of town.

The project will also upgrade the living space for firefighters, and will create some empty space for future office or living space.

Work will start next week, and is expected to last until about March of next year.

During the project, firefighters will set up their offices and living quarters in space under La Bottega restaurant. The town moved some of its library operations to the same space earlier this summer. Fire trucks will be parked near the station, but firefighters will have to sprint 100 yards or less to respond to a call.

Miller said the fire station project works well with plans for the town’s new municipal building project, which is expected to break ground next spring.

Firefighters will be out of the space under La Bottega, freeing up the area for town offices, Miller said.

When the council voted to approve money for the project, council member Greg Moffet said it’s time to do the work.

“We’ve squeezed every last penny of value out of (the building),” Moffet said, adding that if this project lasts as long as the the original building has, “we’ll be fine.”


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