Onalaska Fire Officially Opens New Station

Looking Back and Forward: Celebration Marks Completion of Facility After Previous Location Deemed Unsafe in 2017

Posted

Onalaska’s Fire District 1 acknowledged and celebrated the past during the dedication of its new fire station on state Route 508 Friday, thanking former volunteers for their dedication as the district prepares to usher in a bright future.

Retired volunteers were invited to join current volunteers and community members for a hose uncoupling — the fire station’s equivalent of a ribbon cutting — to formally dedicate Onalaska Fire’s new station during the community’s Apple Harvest festival.

“I think that you have handed down in all these people who are here today just a sense of heart that can’t be matched to anything,” said Fire Commission Chair Tim Miles to the former volunteers and their families present at the Oct. 1 dedication.

The path toward the new station began when the Washington Department of Labor & Industries closed District 1’s old station on Carlisle Avenue in December 2017 due to the poor condition of the building.

Chief Brad Flexhaug became chief roughly three years ago and was immediately tasked with securing funding to replace the district’s failing fire station.

And until the new station could be built, Flexhaug recalled that fire equipment had to be stored in volunteers’ personal driveways.

Voters approved a bond to finance the new station in November 2018 and construction began in spring 2020. The station was complete enough in November 2020 for fire crews to move in and start operating out of the facility, but there was still more interior work to be completed before the station would officially be considered complete.

Finally, the Friday leading up to Onalaska’s 2021 Apple Harvest, the fire district officially opened up the building to the community.

“What a momentous occasion to stand in a building that represents not only maybe 100 years before us … but just the idea of those before us and also those ahead of us,” Miles said. “I think that we’re looking 100 years ahead of us that this building will still be here and this building will still be a part of this community.”

Attendees at the Oct. 1 grand opening were encouraged to sign a guest book for the event and to view mementos of the district’s past, including sepia photo albums of past volunteers in action and pieces of historic equipment. Attendees were each also given a memorial coin cementing the occasion in Onalaska’s history.

Pastor Larry Meade of New Beginnings Community Church was invited to pray over the space; but before giving his dedication, he informed volunteers that he prays for their safety every time he sees them dispatched.

He also relayed an incident in the ‘60s when Onalaska firefighters had to take him to the hospital in an ambulance.

“It was great to have people come to our home that we knew,” he said. “That makes a big difference in how our community reacts, how we grow together.”

He later added, “We have a beautiful facility and we have some tremendous tools to be used … and I am just so thankful for that in our community. I know the day that I need you again, I’ll be happy to see faces that I know.”

While the fire station is primarily intended to serve as the base of the district’s firefighting operations, Flexhaug reminded community members that the building truly belongs to them.

“I love having the community here and I want you to understand that this is your building. This is a community building and we are the stewards of it,” Flexhaug said.

Community groups are welcomed and encouraged to use the space. Call 360-978-4182 for more details.

In the August primary, voters approved a levy lid lift to 75 cents per $1,000 assessed value to fund increased demand for fire services.

The district intends to buy a new engine in the coming years to help keep the department’s service up to date and keep insurance rates for the surrounding area down, and the department has secured a matching-funds grant to help pay for a new command vehicle.

“I think the future is bright for Onalaska,” Miles said.

 

 

 

Commenting is currently disabled for all users