City, firefighters say dilapidated North Bend fire station must be replaced

North Bend's fire station is no place to be in an emergency, maybe not even on a good day. Located next to City Hall, the building has leaks, rats, a floor drain directly to the sewer system, loose windows, an overtaxed electrical system and almost no insulation or storage. It sits in a floodplain, and is so unstable that engineers estimate a third of it would collapse in another earthquake the size of the 2001 Nisqually quake.

An engine rolls out of the North Bend Fire Station during a November 22 call. The station

An engine rolls out of the North Bend Fire Station during a November 22 call. The station

North Bend’s fire station is no place to be in an emergency, maybe not even on a good day.

Located next to City Hall, the building has leaks, rats, a floor drain directly to the sewer system, loose windows, an overtaxed electrical system and almost no insulation or storage. It sits in a floodplain, and is so unstable that engineers estimate a third of it would collapse in another earthquake the size of the 2001 Nisqually quake.

“When this was built … it was never intended to be staffed full-time. This was a volunteer station,” explains firefighter Bob Butterfield on a tour of the station’s hazards and assorted repairs that firefighters have had to make do with.

The station badly needs fixing up, but the building is really old. The two sections were built in 1939 and 1970, so repairs like a new roof may outlast the building itself.

“You’re talking about an awful lot of repairs and an awful lot of money,” said North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing. “It becomes a question of efficiency.”

That question will be put to voters in February, as a $5.2 million bond issue to build a new fire station. The construction costs would be shared between the city of North Bend and Eastside Fire & Rescue District 38, which share the current facility, too. North Bend’s portion would be about $2.9 million.

The proposed levy rates for the new 20-year bond would be roughly 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for North Bend, and 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for property-owners in District 38, or roughly $75 per year for a $400,000 property.

If 60 percent of voters are in favor of the bond, work will begin on a new station about half a mile away, on North Bend Way. Plans for the proposed new station were presented in a public meeting Nov. 18. They included a lobby for the public, access for disabled people, and drive-through access for the emergency vehicles, all of which the current building lacks.

The new building would also be much more stable in an earthquake, as required by the Essential Public Facilities code. In the existing building, two vehicles are housed in the 1939-built section, under two massive roof beams “with gravity keeping them in place,” says Butterfield. Standing under one of the beams, he describes the plan for evacuating the building in an earthquake.

“We’ll pull out the engines on the other side first,” he says, then, barring any aftershocks, they’ll go back in for the other two. “But if we have to, we’re going to sacrifice the aid car and medic unit.”

The beams are far from the only health and safety issue in the building, however. The station is short one exhaust-extraction system, “so one vehicle is still contaminating the air in here,” says Butterfield. In the newer vehicle bays, there are always puddles on the floor, and the nearby floor drain occasionally backs up into the station flooding the floor with raw sewage. Towels and buckets hang from leaks in the ceiling and in several spots, the holes in the roof have been patched with plywood.

“This also shows our issue with maintaining a one-hour fire barrier,” EFR Fire Marshal Bud Backer points out. Fire stations must have a buffer between vehicle storage and personnel quarters that would keep a fire from spreading for one hour; plywood would only last a few minutes in a fire.

Upstairs in the living quarters, there are more roof leaks, you can push on the windows and see daylight between the frame and the building, and the rat problem is huge, despite the firefighters’ best efforts at trapping and eliminating them. Pictures of mice hang from various spots in the suspended ceiling throughout the living quarters, to indicate where the traps are.

“The population has been reduced, but we can’t eliminate them for some reason,” Backer said.

“A lot of them hang out in here. They’ll run right across the counters,” added station captain Mike Geppert.

Even with all the discomforts and challenges, though, Backer says, “To me, the seismic issues are paramount.”

City and fire officials agree the station must be replaced.

“We can’t afford to have the building fall down… We could put City Hall offices all over the city, but you’ve got to have your emergency services,” said Hearing.

“Right now, we’re trying to address the dire, dire needs,” added Fire Commissioner Chris Dahline.

Hearing and Dahline also agree that the current building will eventually be condemned, and City Hall relocated.

The proposed new station will not only meet the city’s and district’s current needs, but should be able to accommodate future growth and potential changes to the operating partnership between the city and Fire District 38.

“It’s actually meant to be flexible… to be built in such a way that it could house two different operations,” said North Bend City Administrator Duncan Wilson.

The next public meeting on the proposed new fire station will be in January, and the issue will go to voters in February.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

In Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, which was announced Jan. 28, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Inslee recently announced all counties will be staying in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan for the next several weeks. Pictured: People enjoy outdoor dining last summer in downtown Kent. Courtesy photo
Inslee: All of Washington to stay in Phase 2 for a few weeks

The governor issued a weekslong pause on regions moving backward, but has yet to outline a Phase 3.

Snoqualmie Falls was shown frequently in Twin Peaks, as was the Salish Lodge & Spa resting on the cliff above the falls. File photo
News around the Valley: Trailheads, Chamber news, ‘Twin Peaks’

Trailhead Ambassador program launches From Trailhead Ambassadors The Trailhead Ambassador program will… Continue reading

Entrance to the Tukwila Library branch of the King County Library System. File photo
King County libraries will reopen in some cities for in-person services

Fall City, Kent libraries among six selected for partial reopening.

In a zipper merge, cars continue in their lanes and then take turns at the point where the lanes meet. (Koenb via Wikimedia Commons)
Do Washington drivers need to learn the zipper merge?

Legislators propose requiring zipper merge instruction in drivers education and in license test.

Centennial Well is tightly connected to the Snoqualmie River. North Bend is required to find two mitigation sources which can be tapped to replenish water in the river on days with low flows. Ashley Hiruko/staff photo
North Bend, Sallal could restart water negotiations

Representatives from both utilities have said they’re talking again.

A South King Fire & Rescue firefighter places a used test swab into a secure COVID test vial on Nov. 18, 2020, at a Federal Way testing site. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Masks are still king in combating new COVID strains

A top UW doctor talks new strains, masks and when normal could return.

Fall City Fire Chief Chris Connor is retiring on Feb. 26, 2021 after 40 years with the department. Contributed photo
Fall City Fire Chief retires after four decades

Chief Chris Connor started with the department in February 1981.

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Democrats look to allow noncitizens to serve on school boards

A Senate bill takes aim at a state law requiring anyone seeking elected office to be a citizen.

A road closure due to flooding on SE Park Street, Snoqualmie, during the 2016 flood. File photo
Minor flooding possible along Snoqualmie, Tolt rivers

Both the Snoqualmie and Tolt rivers reached minor flooding phases on Monday… Continue reading

Most Read