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Neighbors support new hills fire station

Wednesday October 24, 2001

By Neighbors for Fire Safety:  

Barbara and Bob Allen, Juliann Beckendorf, Barbara & Bob Allen, Juliann Beckendorf (Citizen Fire Commissioner), and twenty others 


Articles in the Oct. 10 Daily Planet imply there significant opposition to the New Hills Fire Station. It must be made clear that this opposition is mainly limited to a few whose homes are in the immediate vicinity of the planned Fire Station 7 to be built at Park Gate and Shasta Roads. In fact, in the Berkeley Hills there is overwhelming support.  

Our group, Neighbors for Fire Safety, went door-to-door to collect 1,000 signatures in favor of the new fire station, including more than 100 from residents of the Park Hills neighborhood near the station, the remainder being from the area served by Station 7 and residents from other parts of Berkeley.  

The latest claim by the opposition, that they are concerned only with the legality of Measure G financing for the station, is false: in meeting after meeting over the past year, their questions have focused on how much disruption it would be to their neighborhood, including size, noise, traffic and light. These concerns were addressed in the project’s Environmental Impact Report. 

These specific concerns have been shown to be minimal – the fire station has an average of only 1.4 calls per day, mostly medical calls. Opponents also were dissatisfied with the original design of the station, produced in response to their request that the impact to the neighborhood be limited. The city had the architect respond by designing a station that would match the neighborhood.  

Now that these concerns were addressed, opponents have switched to questioning the legality of use of funds provided through Measure G, approved in 1992 to build a new fire station to replace Station 7.  

The original proposal was intended to develop a jointly funded and manned station with Oakland: “acquiring, constructing and equipping a new fire station, provided however that the council entered into agreements with other jurisdictions” which would contribute proportionately to the cost of construction, equipment or staffing of the new station. This specific intent cannot now be carried out since Oakland has built a new fire station and will not be joining Berkeley. However, Berkeley has succeeded in developing a joint agreement supported by a resolution passed unanimously by the East Bay Regional Parks District Board, so that the new Hills Station would be jointly staffed by firefighters from EBRPD on high fire danger days. The new station will meet accepted standards for fire stations designed to serve urban/wildland interface areas, including four emergency apparatus bays, accommodations for a three or four-person crew and a reserve crew of three EBRPD firefighters.  

Measure G also called for “the repairing and seismic retrofitting of existing fire stations….” But the existing 62-year-old Station 7 cannot protect the hill area adequately, due to slow response time, the need for a larger site to house male and female personnel and equipment required for a modern fire station. It will be retrofitted to house additional wildfire equipment. Both intents of Measure G will be carried out, albeit in modified form. 

Upon approval of the plan by the Zoning Adjustments Board and City Council, the city will file a validation suit to have the courts determine whether the use of the Measure G funds for the new station is appropriate.  

The neighbors’ objection that the new station would not be sufficient to fight a wildfire by itself is rendered moot by the Mutual Response Areas developed by all the fire departments in the region since the 1991 fire.  

Members of Neighbors for Fire Safety who are Berkeley Fire/Safety Commissioners witnessed the rapid response during drills held in Tilden Park this spring.  

At present, we need to face the serious life-safety issue affecting us all. Further delays would leave us exposed to a disaster, not only for the hills, but the entire city, should an uncontrolled wildfire originate in Tilden Park. The new Hills Fire Station 7 is the best location of eight sites within Fire District 7 studied by the Fire Department, providing the best response time for structure fires and medical emergencies.  

Unfortunately, the opposition is still trying to delay the process. Now is the time for all citizens in the hills to pull together for the common good of the city and for our firefighters.