Public Safety Committee to Fire Department, Public Works: 'Come back with Priority List' of Fire Station Fixes

Vice-Mayor Kennedy asks Fire Department, Public Works heads to return with more details on fire station needs and priorities

Published : Thursday, October 19, 2017 | 5:36 AM

Delivery of a fire station facilities condition report from Pasadena Fire Chief Bertral Washington and Public Works Department Director Ara Maloyan was halted during Wednesday night’s City Council Public Safety Committee meeting after it became clear that a “priority report” compiled by the Departments after a series of inspection recommendations was not available.

Although City Manager Steve Mermell told the Committee that there were no “pressing capital safety needs” at any of the City’s eight fire stations, Washington told the Committee that the Fire Department had prepared a priority list of repairs and upgrades..

Both Mayor Terry Tornek and Councilmember Steve Madison told Washington they needed to see the list.

At that point, which followed a complete facilities presentation, Committee Chair Vice-Mayor John Kennedy asked Washington to return at a later date with the updated priority list.

Before being asked to return, Maloyan reported that Pasadena fire stations had been inspected and assessed by WLC Architects in 2011, utilizing the ASCE Seismic Evaluation of Existing Buildings as the standard for their assessment.
As Maloyan reported, the California Building Code (CBC) defines police and Fire Stations as “essential facilities,” meaning buildings and other structures that are intended to remain operational in the event of extreme environmental loading from flood, wind, snow, or earthquakes.” Essential facilities are also designed to withstand earthquake and wind loads 50% greater than Non-Essential Facilities, governed by California Fire Code (CFC) and California Building Code (CBC).

A number of the stations had been assessed as “legally, non-conforming,” which, according to Molayan, denotes a structure that met the code requirements when it was constructed, but does not necessarily meet current building code standards.

Only fire stations 34 and 39 both described as “conforming to both California fire and building codes,” but Fire Stations 31, 32, 33, 36, and 38 were described as “legally, non-conforming fire stations.”

Fire Station No. 31, constructed in 1990, was compliant with ASCE standards for existing buildings, and at the time of the assessment, met current Life Safety Requirements, reported Maloyan. A roof retrofit to an accessory structure known as a Wickercraft building, which is not part of the main fire station and its operations, was recommended.

Fire Station No. 32, which was constructed in 1967, and first retrofitted in 1991, was deemed to have exceeded its life expectancy. The building was seismically retrofitted and reoccupied in 2013.

The building housing Fire Station No. 33, which was constructed between 1946 and 1949, was assessed in 2005 per an RRM Group report, and at the time of the assessment, the building met current Life Safety Requirements. No seismic retrofits were recommended.

Fire Station No. 34, constructed in 2000, was compliant with the current codes at the time of the structural assessment, and no seismic retrofits were recommended.

Fire Station No. 36, constructed in 1988, was also in conformance with building codes when constructed, and again, no seismic retrofits were recommended. Fire Station No. 37, constructed in 1952, was reported as non-compliant with ASCE standards for existing buildings. Roof-to-wall anchorage retrofits are recommended, but not deemed urgent. The assessment “assumed continued satisfactory seismic performance of the main structure.

A concept study to correct the deficiencies and construct a facility in compliance with current standards, is listed in the Fiscal Year 2018-2022 Capital Improvements Projects, under “Future Projects,” and is not funded.

In addition, an assessment for hose tower masonry damage performed in February 2016, recommended repairs, but the repairs were not deemed urgent, and repairs have not yet been performed due to lack of funding.

Fire Station No. 38’s building of conventional wood framing and concrete foundation “will continue to perform well during moderate seismic activity,” it was reported, and no seismic retrofits were recommended. The building was constructed in 1958.

The building’s structural system at Fire Station No. 39, which was constructed in 1948, was also deemed to have exceeded its life expectancy. The building was seismically retrofitted and reoccupied in 2014.

City Manager Steve Mermell, in response to the presentation, allowed that the City “really needs to invest many millions in our fire stations.”

Washington also reported that monthly fire station safety inspections are conducted by station captains and evaluate basic items, such as doorways, ramps, stairways, and lighting, and followups for repairs are sent to BSFMD. Similar annual fire station facility inspections are also conducted by City Safety Officers.

In addition, the presentation noted that air testing of fire stations, are conducted by Aurora Industrial Hygiene, with air samples taken from selected locations at Fire Station. According to the report, “concentrations of volatile organic compounds were low and inconclusive.”

The report also listed seven recommendations, including switching to renewable diesel fuels, which is currently underway.

Scott Austin, president of Pasadena Fire Fighters Local 809, however, reported to the Committee his concerns about air quality in stations, noting that 65% of state firefighter deaths are related to cancer, and that black mold had been recently discovered in the walls at Fire Station 38.

“They opened up the walls, washed everything with bleach, and told us everything was okay,” said Austin.

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