Last Tuesday night’s open house discussion about the future of Durango Fire Protection District Station 2 received tragic and unwelcome emphasis with the early Wednesday morning fire at the Tercero Townhouse building.
It was the second major fire in the city limits in a month, following the May 22 blaze at 1111 Camino del Rio that left a blackened ruin on Durango’s main thoroughfare.
But unlike the May fire, which gutted a vacant building slated for demolition, the Tercero blaze killed 24-year-old Durango native Kevin Abeyta, sent three other residents to the hospital and forced all other residents to seek alternative shelter.
Abeyta initially escaped from the fire, but then selflessly went back inside to search for children he feared were trapped in the building. Described by a wide circle of family and friends as a caring, generous man, Abeyta was one of four co-owners of the recently opened Los Amigos Del Sur restaurant in the Main Mall. He will be missed by many in the community.
Though firefighters were on the scene five minutes after getting the call, damage to the nine-unit building was extensive. Location, proximity to downtown and response times are high on the list of requirements for the next generation of Station 2, the busiest of the district’s four “career” stations (staffed around the clock). Out of more than 5,000 calls Durango Fire and Rescue responded to in 2016, Station 2 was involved in 45 percent of them.
The three locations presently proposed for the new station all have certain features to recommend them, but all pose significant problems as well.
The open lot on College Drive now used for parking for the train offers plenty of room – a new, larger station could be built and still leave space for public parking behind the structure. But many in the business community question the wisdom of using prime property with so much commercial and sales tax potential for a fire station.
The new station could be built on Camino del Rio between West Seventh and West Eighth streets, in the parking lot next to the Durango Transit Center. But critics of the location say the space simply can not accommodate the large facility now needed for our growing community. The new station should include six bays for vehicles, planners say. Currently, Station 2 has four. This location would also require the addition of traffic lights to operate during emergencies and result in the loss of 158 parking spaces.
Relocating the city’s Community Development Department would provide enough space to rebuild a larger, renovated Station 2 at its present location. But the building, called a temporary solution when the station opened in 1983, is in the Animas River floodplain and will require expensive mitigation for asbestos and, possibly, uranium tailings as well. District personnel are not fond of the maneuvers required to drive their heavy trucks in and out of this location, and better access to the new station, which is significantly below the level of Camino del Rio, might need to be built. A new station at this location will still limit public access to the river and the Powerhouse Science Center, and will also require that a temporary station be established, preferably downtown, during construction.
We applaud the work done so far in determining the future of Station No. 2.
We wonder only if there are additional locations, or more creative architectural solutions, that should be considered before building this critically important structure.