Oct. 11--Firefighters say their living quarters at two station houses near Eatonville and Roy are crammed and old, a jumble of disjointed floor plans.
At the Roy station, curtains replace doors in sleeping areas shared by male and female volunteers and career firefighters. There are lots of bugs and a lingering smell of mold.
"The living arrangements are pretty bad," said Joe Arena, a volunteer firefighter and EMT for South Pierce Fire & Rescue.
His district is one of two in Pierce County asking voters this fall for a combined $47 million for new and improved fire stations. Together, the two districts serve more than 220,000 residents stretching from Eatonville to Puyallup.
Central Pierce Fire & Rescue, one of the state's biggest fire districts, covers a diverse population of rural, suburban, urban and commercial areas.
It's asking for a $39.8 million bond to replace three stations -- including one that shares space with Puyallup police -- and to remodel or upgrade several others.
South Pierce, which serves rural areas reaching to the Mount Rainier foothills, is requesting $7.6 million to build a new headquarters and remodel two buildings. The bond would address living conditions and the structural integrity of seven stations.
But the money is not just about making fire stations more comfortable for the people who live and work there. Officials in both districts say the measures on the Nov. 5 ballot would put emergency resources in the right places, improve response times and ensure the safety of citizens.
No statements were submitted in the voter guide arguing against the measures.
Central Pierce Fire Chief Keith Wright says now is the time to pay for new stations in the district. The current effort comes five years after voters rejected a $36 million proposal.
With construction costs down, Wright doesn't want to wait any longer. Problems include cramped quarters, leaky roofs with mold problems and outdated emergency generators.
At a cost of about 16 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation, Central Pierce's bond measure would cost the owner of a $225,000 home an estimated $36 a year.
Approval of the bond measure would pay for three new station buildings -- downtown Puyallup, Parkland and Midland -- and major structural improvements to the Spanaway/Frederickson and South Hill stations. Smaller improvements would be made to the remaining eight stations.
Puyallup police officers are just as eager for a new fire station downtown.
Police spokesman Scott Engle said the city is working to improve all its safety facilities, and the fire station is the first piece of the puzzle.
"We are completely maxed out on space," he said. "We have no more room, quite frankly, for anything."
Wright said the projects collectively will improve the long-term health of the district, which responds to roughly 27,000 calls a year over an 87-square-mile area.
"The citizens will benefit from having all 12 stations in shape," he said.
Central Pierce has continued to grow since it formed in 1996. It most recently merged with Puyallup's Fire Department in 2008, which added 40,000 people to its boundaries.
But as the district has expanded, its funds have shrunk; its current operating budget of about $42.3 million has declined by nearly $5.5 million since 2010.
Wright said the district now serves just as many people as Tacoma Fire Department but with half the staff and resources.
Wright said a new Parkland station -- the busiest in the district -- would be built on a bigger land parcel to accommodate its high volume of calls.
The Midland station has undergone several remodels, mostly short-term fixes to a building that doesn't comply with building codes. The new station would be built closer to Portland Avenue, a main arterial, to improve response times.
If the bond is approved in November, Wright said projects would begin right away and would be completed no later than 2019.