Bill Lowe fire station shuttered
Anyone driving past Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department Station 35 recently may have noticed the red steel building no longer looks much like a working firehouse.
Formerly known as the Bill Lowe station, the facility was officially shuttered by the Municipality on Feb. 8 after an engineering firm’s structural evaluation in late January found the building to be in “poor condition.”
“It was evident the building was no longer safe to occupy due to some damage to the roof and the heavy snow load,” said CVFD Chief Tom Reinbolt.
Reinbolt said the department immediately moved its equipment from the building, which is located near Fire Lake on the Old Glenn Highway in Eagle River. The nearest CVFD station is 2.5 miles down the Old Glenn at Latimer station, and Reinbolt said the loss of the facility is significant.
“It’s a strategic position,” he said.
However, Reinbolt said the station was not staffed full-time, and its loss in the short term shouldn’t have major consequences for area residents.
“It won’t hinder our response times too greatly,” he said.
The station’s closure has been a hot topic lately, and was discussed at length at a town hall meeting last month with area legislators.
Birchwood Community Council president Bobbi Wells said the station’s location near a large residential development and the Fred Meyer store made it a valuable community asset.
“It’s a critical location at that end of the service area,” Wells said.
As luck would have it, the closure actually came at a good time to become a candidate for state funding. According to Rep. Bill Stoltze, who chairs the House Finance Committee, a $6.15 million appropriation for the station was added to the supplemental budget and passed out of the House earlier this month. If the bill makes it through the Senate, Reinbolt said in a press release that he’s hopeful a new station to replace the old building can be built within two years.
Rep. Stoltze said the timing of the station’s closure worked in favor of adding the funds to the state budget in a timely manner.
“It was one of those things where it’s a tragedy that it happened when it did, but the timing and opportunity worked out really well,” he said.
Stoltze said he thinks the new station should receive favorable support in the Senate.
“I think there’s a lot of goodwill there,” he said.
Reinbolt said the station’s closure could be a blessing in disguise, because it will allow the department to upgrade its facilities in a vital location at the Eagle River end of the department’s service area.
“We are excited at the prospect of designing and building a brand new station capable of handling the modern, much larger fire apparatus and housing our administrative offices,” Reinbolt said in the press release.
He noted that the new facility could also include room for training and community meetings.
The CVFD purchased the building in 2004. The next year, it was named after O.W. ”Bill” Lowe, who served more than 20 years on the publicly elected Board of Supervisors for the fire department before he was killed in a traffic accident on the Old Glenn Highway, according to the release.