Rebuilding Fire Station 31 to meet the needs of the futureMar 09, 2023 09:57AM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart
The rebuilt Fire Station 31 will have more space to store trucks and engines. (Sarah Morton Taggart/City Journals)
The bedrooms at Fire Station 31 are not up to fire code. Specifically, they don’t have windows, so there is only one exit in case of a fire.
“That goes against everything that we teach,” said new Sandy Fire Chief Jeffrey Bassett. “We wouldn’t allow a building like this today.”
Station 31 was built in 1984 and has had several additions through the years as the department has grown. The building contains both a fully-functioning station and the administrative offices for the fire chief and staff, including the fire marshal, inspectors and the training and logistics divisions.
“Our firefighters spent a third of their lives at the fire station,” Bassett said. “So, when you think about that, the fire stations are really homes that are running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, nonstop.”
The list of challenges with Station 31, located at 9010 S. 150 East, is a long one. There is extensive structural damage from the 5.7 magnitude earthquake in 2020. The roof leaks every time it rains, to the point where they’ve stopped bothering to replace several ceiling tiles. The moisture that does go to the downspouts pours into the bay where the engines are stored, leading to slippery floors. The pipes from the showers leak into the basement.
The bathrooms are not ADA compliant, and there is only one female bathroom on the combat side, so it’s challenging to have more than one female on the crew at a time.
“Coming back (after a call), we have to decontaminate. We have to shower right away,” Bassett said. “Those are things that we don’t want to wait on, because it creates a hazardous health environment for our employees. So we have to have the facilities that can help our employees navigate those situations.”
Rebuilding Station 31 will significantly improve the quality of life for the firefighters stationed there.
A staffing issue came to light last summer when six experienced firefighters left the department, partly because of a “lean and mean” approach to staffing that had two firefighters operating trucks, two less than the national standard. In July, the Sandy department began staffing three people per truck and the department is well on its way toward recruiting the eight additional firefighters needed, as well as replacing the six they lost.
“Not only do we need to make some significant improvements, we are out of space,” Bassett said. “Those are some of the things we’re struggling with at some of our other fire stations. They’re maxed out and we have to do some creative thinking about the fire stations as we increase our staffing.”
Could Station 31 be rebuilt at the same location? Bassett says that even the site itself is no longer ideal.
“With light rail at our front door, that creates a couple challenges,” Bassett said. “Sometimes 90th South will be so congested just because the traffic arms are down. If our crews have to leave and we’re blocked in by traffic—that’s scary.”
The city has purchased a parcel for the new station just north of 9400 South to the west of America First Field.
“The new headquarters will meet the needs of the new higher density, taller buildings that are already master planned in the Cairns District,” said Mayor Monica Zoltanski in December 2022. “It’s the right location. We were fortunate to secure the property and acquire it for the city’s future fire needs.”
One million dollars was allocated by the Sandy City Council to begin design work on Station 31 in September 2022, but the $13 million or so needed to construct the new building has yet to be secured.
“We are currently designing what we call a concept,” Bassett said. “It’s to give us an idea of what size of building we can fit on the property and what it could potentially look like.”
The concept will be presented to the mayor, the city council and the public for feedback. Then the fire department will go forward with hiring an architecture firm and a construction manager/general contractor.
“I like to bring on both partners in the construction process so we can do things like value engineer,” Bassett said. “We’re here to make sure we’re taking care of the taxpayers’ dollars. We’re looking to build a fire station that is functional and meets the citizens' priorities and ours as well.”
Before coming to Sandy, Bassett was the fire chief at South Davis Metro Fire. There, he oversaw the construction of five stations, including a fire headquarters. Bassett was brought on a few weeks before former Chief Bruce Cline retired in December 2022.
That same month, Council Member Marci Houseman made a motion to adopt Resolution 22-57C, which declares the intention of the city council to issue a General Obligation Bond in FY 2023-24 to rebuild Station 31. The motion passed four to three. Sandy voters will have a chance to vote yes or no on the bond in November.
No matter how it’s funded, the city plans to extend Monroe Street through the area and open both the fire station and the new road in October 2025.
“Right now we’re seeing calls increasing about 8% a year, so that’s a significant increase in the city,” Bassett said. “We have to keep up with the call volume by staffing more ambulances and have more firefighters on the trucks to be more efficient handling the emergency calls of the city. We’ll build the station so it meets the needs not only for today, but also meets the needs for the future.”