The Riverside Fire Authority stations on North Pearl Avenue and Harrison Avenue will each receive new heating and cooling systems thanks to a $300,000 grant awarded by the Centralia Coal Transition Grants Weatherization Board.

New hot water equipment will also be installed in both stations, replacing systems that have become antiquated and unreliable. Chief Mike Kytta said Tuesday that the upgrades will benefit both fire department staff and the general public. He hopes to have work at both stations completed by the end of this year.

“Not only do we use them for our own personnel, but also to serve the community,” Kytta said. “That’s part of the reason we’re so thrilled to have this occurring now. It will certainly make things better for us to serve as a cooling station in the summer, a heating station in the winter, and as a place to relocate citizens to in the event of a disaster. For things of that nature, it’s just going to open up a lot of opportunities for us to better serve the community.”

Kytta added that while the RFA provides those services to the community when needed, the grant will allow both stations to have a greater capacity to provide refuge for Centralia residents most vulnerable to the elements.

“We still offer those cooling and heating options, but we’ve had to curb some of our services,” Kytta said. “There are, I think, many within the community that would look at, in a disaster like a seismic event or major flooding, the fire station as being a place for safety they could go to until such time that shelters are open.”

The new HVAC and water equipment will also benefit RFA by way of improved energy conservation and lower operating costs, according to a press release by the Weatherization Board. 

A 2011 agreement between TransAlta and the state of Washington created the Weatherization Board in conjunction with a larger plan to shutter the two coal-fired TransAlta power plants in Centralia by 2025.

A total of $10 million was set aside for the Weatherization Board to distribute for projects that would improve energy efficiency and weatherization within Lewis County and South Thurston County. Recent grant recipients include the Lewis County Public Utility District and the City of Chehalis.

“The upgrade projects proposed by the Riverside Fire Authority serve two primary purposes,” said Jeff Yanish, Weatherization Board member, in the press release. “Providing an energy efficient environment for firefighters, EMS personnel and at times, for community members during emergency situations. Second, they will see a reduction in energy use and costs associated with maintenance and monthly bills.”

For more information on the Weatherization Board and other Centralia Coal Transition Grants programs, visit cctgrants.com.

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