Monday, July 23 , 2018, 11:18 am | Fair 75º


Letter to the Editor: Northwest Goleta’s Long Wait for a Fire Station is Nearly Over

I live dangerously – as does everyone in northwest Goleta. Oh, not by choice. It's because of a long-standing need for upgraded fire protection. 

Urban and suburban fire service requires a response time of five minutes or less. Northwest Goleta doesn't meet that standards from Station 11 in west-central Goleta.

Additionally, all of Goleta has an excessive firefighter-to-population ratio.

Back in the mid-1980s, the county supervisors knew western Goleta needed better fire protection. The supervisors' "Goleta Community Plan" of 1993 said, "The Fire Department uses a countywide level of service of one firefighter/4,000 population as an absolute maximum population which can be adequately served. All of the fire stations within Goleta approach or exceed this threshold."

Fire Station Ten topped the GCP's list of action items, however, in the "Implementation Summary" "FS10 had "moderate" priority and an estimated time of "unknown."

Clearly, the supes ignored Goleta's inadequate fire protection. 

February 2002, Goleta incorporates. Cityhood was sold to Goletans with claims of better service. Sadly, in Goleta's early years, fire protection on the northwest side was the same non-issue it was with the county.

Seven more years went by. In 2009, Goleta acquired 1.28-acres at the corner of Hollister Avenue and Cathedral Oaks Road.

One day, I rode by on my bike and saw a sign saying it would be the site of Fire Station 10. Bless their progressive hearts. Council was finally doing something about fire protection for my neighborhood.

The city of Goleta and the Santa Barbara County Fire Department spent five years talking about their plans, then, on Nov. 17, 2016, they announced the Station 10 project. It was a long time coming.

Design, engineering, environmental impact report, permitting and construction of a retaining wall along side the Union Pacific Railroad will take two years. Building the station itself takes about a year.

Sometime in early 2020, Station 10, serving northwestern Goleta, will open for business. 

A few Goletans have concerns. One is potential health hazards from electro-magnetic fields (EMF) radiated by a radio antenna on the station’s roof.

I contacted Division Chief Martin Johnson, who heads the department's Operations Division. He told me that station transceivers are primarily for receiving orders from Santa Barbara County Fire's dispatch center.

On rare occasions, if an emergency happens at the station, firefighters may use the station transmitter, which puts out 30-watts – less than most lightbulbs – through a 15-foot antenna on the stations’ roof. Bottom line: The new station will pose no EMF threat.

Some have questions about the fuel storage, to be located next to the Hideaway development. Its residents expressed concern about fumes or spills, and asked that the facility be moved to the other end of the station's back lot. I agree with the Hideaway folks – move the fuel dump.

Some worry about noise. Chief Eric Peterson said that, while there may be rare times when trucks go "code three" (lights and siren) right at departure, the majority of responses begin with emergency lights only.

Even if, once in a while, a truck leaves with the siren on, Hideaway residents are safer with a fire station next door and an occasional annoyance than they are, now, outside Station 11's five-minute response area.

Plus, their homeowner's insurance premiums will likely go down because of Station 10's close proximity.

A few questioned bright lighting and an ugly antenna tower.

Fire officials tell me that the antenna tower will not be near as high as the one in the now-defunct plan for a CHP station next to Elwood School. They also said that the outdoor lighting will be designed for as little annoyance to Hideaway residents as possible.

Recently, I asked Goleta Council Member, Michael Bennett, why Station 10's gestation was so long.

"Things like this don't happen overnight," Bennett told me. The council member is a master of understatement, but, be it overnight or over three decades; I am glad Station 10 is finally going to be built. 

My neighbors in northwestern Goleta should all heartily support our Fire Department's efforts and welcome the new station.

Hib Halvorson


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