By Nick Diamantides
After almost a decade of behind-the-scenes work by community activists and city officials, a new fire station is about to be built in North Long Beach. Even though a sometimes-heavy rain was falling, about 80 people came to the official groundbreaking ceremony for Fire Station 12, on the northeast corner of Orange Avenue and Artesia Boulevard last Saturday (March 6) morning.
“It’s very fitting that we are here today honoring our fire department who serves us in rain or shine,” said Amy Bodek, executive director of the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency (RDA). She spoke to the crowd gathered under the large awning that had been set up by personnel of the Long Beach Fire Department. “By your presence, you’re honoring them for all their hard work,” Bodek said.
Bodek explained that the RDA was investing $14 million in the project through the acquisition of the property, the design of the facility, and its construction.
“Today is specifically about Fire Station 12 and the men and women in the fire department,” Bodek said. “I want to thank them for their continued service to the City of Long Beach, the residents and the businesses of this city.”
Bodek noted that the soon-to-be replaced Fire Station 12 in its current location on nearby Gundry Avenue is about 3,800 square feet. The new facility will include a 12,511 square-foot fire station and a 5,183 square-foot emergency resource center. “We believe this facility will provide the enhanced services that we are looking for and expect from our fire department,” Bodek said, stressing that the project could not happen without the dedication and involvement of the city’s governmental and community leaders as well as the residents.
Mayor Bob Foster took the microphone next, noting that it was a great day for North Long Beach. He noted that the current Fire Station 12 was built in 1929. “We are talking about a real commitment from this city to public safety, to the fire department, to our men and women who do such a great job, and to the environment,” he said, alluding to the fact that the new facility will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified at the “gold level.”
Foster noted that personnel at Fire Station 12 handle more than 5,000 calls for service per year, and the new facility will greatly enhance their ability to respond quickly to emergencies. “It’s a demonstration of how this area of town is changing, and I couldn’t be happier,” he said, adding that he and other city officials hope to build new fire stations throughout the city.
The new fire station’s location along a major thoroughfare will increase access in all directions, increase efficiency, reduce response times and eliminate congestion and inconvenience to the residential neighborhood which now contains the existing station. The project includes upgrades to the Artesia Boulevard/Orange Avenue traffic signal to control traffic while fire engines are emerging from the station, which will also have a 100-foot-high communications tower to provide connectivity with the entire city. A new traffic light will also be installed on 67th Street and Orange Avenue for pedestrian safety, and new street trees and shrubs will be planted in the vicinity of the station.
Vice Mayor Val Lerch also spoke at the ceremony. “The first week that I was in office as a councilman representing this district (eight years ago), I brought in the fire chief and a couple of his key personnel and told them I wanted to build a new Fire Station 12,” Lerch said. “They sort of chuckled.” He explained that back then, few people believed that the city could find the resources to build a new fire facility in North Long Beach, but because of a core of dedicated people working together, now the new station was about to become a reality.
Lerch noted that the old Fire Station 12 has no facilities for gender differentiation and is cramped for space. He added that fire trucks and EMT wagons must be parked outside. “It’s a long time coming,” he said. “I know that in future years, as I drive by this corner, I will say we in North Long Beach did it when they told us it couldn’t be done. We built this building.”
Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Reeb was the final speaker. “This is an incredible day for us to be together here to begin construction on the new fire station for North Long Beach,” he said, noting that the project would not have been possible without the leadership and support of Foster and Lerch, and the funding provided by the RDA.
“This facility is unique,” Reeb said. “It is designed to be much more than a fire station. In the event of a disaster this facility will serve as a base of operations for a wide variety of services throughout North Long Beach and will provide space for the Red Cross to undertake its disaster relief. We will also have an emergency resource center here with warehouse space for the distribution of disaster supplies. He added that the station will also provide a community meeting room for the North Project Area Committee and other groups.
After Reeb’s brief comments, while a light rain fell, officials involved in the planning of the project grabbed their shovels and dug them into the ground, symbolizing the start of construction for the new facility.