Back in 2016, Tukwila residents approved a $77 million safety bond measure that invested in new public safety facilities. The city is making steps toward the goal of building fire stations, a justice center and a public works facility.
While this action could affect 24 businesses, it has become apparent that several fire stations are in need of a major upgrade.
The biggest safety concern with Fire Station 54, and other Tukwila fire stations, is that they are seismically unstable.
“Ultimately, Station 51, 52 and 54, if a large enough magnitude earthquake hit it would destroy those buildings and potentially your first responders,” said Eric Dunkley, a firefighter from Station 54.
With that as their main safety hazard, there are many others to list, one being the level of security.
There is a gate to the back of the station, but the station does not lock because police personnel also use the station, Dunkley said.
About a month or two ago, the station had to call the police because of a suspicious vehicle that came to the back of the station.
Firefighters are three times more likely to get cancer than the average person, Dunkley said, which is why it is important for firefighters to leave as much of those carcinogens behind as they can when they come back their living quarters at the station.
Dunkley said there is a lack of “hot, warm and cold zones” in Station 54.
“In new facilities, and this is kind of across the nation as the science develops around the fire service, they look at breaking us out into hot, warm and cold zones,” Dunkley explained. “What that means is your hot zone is where your most imminent threat is or where your most imminent hazard is. A warm zone is just outside of that and the cold zone would be like this living space itself (referring to the living room area of the fire station) where it’s removed from all threats.”
To put this in simpler terms, Dunkley said it’s like a mud room to a house. When someone walks back into their house from being outside, they have the mud room to strip their muddy or contaminated shoes, so that they don’t bring those germs into the living area of the home — meaning that a warm zone is the mud room and the cold zone is the living area of the home.
Station 51 also has black mold according to Dunkley.
“So we’re breathing this in, we’re living in these areas for two days straight and breathing in these contaminates, so that can lead to health issues for us,” he said.
Black mold can cause a variety of health issues including, but not limited to, respiratory problems, throat irritation, coughing and in some cases skin irritation, according to Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Although the list goes on for issues that need to be solved at the station, one of the last things that Dunkley spoke about was a major space issue at the station.
To put this into perspective, he explained that the laundry machines are in the garage where the fire truck is. When the fire truck in parked, there is very limited space between the laundry unit and the fire truck. On top of that, it goes back to the hot, warm and cold zones — cleaning your clothes in a so called “hot” zone is not going to get your clothes clean.
Storage at the station is very minimal too, Dunkley said. The crew keeps their extra uniforms and other gear in bins stacked up in the garage where the fire truck and first respondent vehicle is.
“An issue we have with our station is storage, or lack of storage. So our bunker gear are stored right out where our rigs are at. It’s also stored in an area that allows light to come in. We do not want bunker gear exposed to UV as referred to by the manufacturer. It deteriorates our gear quicker, causing it to not perform as it’s supposed to,” he said.
Currently, the city has run into a slight bump in the road when it comes to planning these updates and remodels that these safety facilities need.
According to Rachel Bianchi, communications and government relations manager for the city of Tukwila, there is a funding gap for these projects.
A funding gap is the amount of money needed to fund an on going operations or future funding for developments.
“The council is going through a process right now to identify how they’re going to fill that gap and what they’ll do. So in terms of timing there’s going to be key decisions being made within the next few months,” Bianchi said.