PLAIN — In December 2012 a winter storm slammed the Upper Valley, leaving a trail of destruction.
“We were without power for 10 days. Three lives were lost, critically injured patients,” said Lake Wenatchee Fire and Rescue Chief Mick Lamar. “We really had no refuge, and we’d like to be able to build a facility that’s large enough to bring citizens in, feed them, have a place for them to shower if necessary, a place to have a public meeting to let them know what the current situation and status is.”
That can now happen, as Lake Wenatchee Fire and Rescue will be developing 5.37 acres next to Beaver Valley Elementary School. The department had submitted the minimum bid of $340,000 for the property, and the Cascade School Board accepted it this week.
Beaver Valley Elementary, which has about 30 students, sits on 10 acres on Beaver Valley Road outside of Plain. It won’t need the extra land for expansion because it is classified as a “remote and necessary” school and, by state law, can’t have more than 60 students.
The school board voted last June to surplus the property. The fire department previously submitted bids, but they didn’t meet the requirements the board had set at the time.
Lamar said a growing population and an increase in the number and duration of wildfires are some reasons the department has to expand its facilities. It also entered into a contract with Cascade Medical Center three years ago to respond to medical calls.
The department relies on volunteers and a couple of part-time employees, Lamar said. It’s adding a few full-time positions this summer to help with fuel mitigation.
“As volunteers become fewer and requirements become more stringent, the district at some time will have to transition to some residential firefighters or career firefighters, and we just want to be prepared when that time comes,” Lamar said.
Lake Wenatchee Fire and Rescue has four fire stations, including one on property adjacent to the 5.37 acres. Lamar said the new building would include a training room for firefighters and administrative offices.
Planning will begin later this year, he said.
“We’d love to start tomorrow, but we’ve got all the closing paperwork that needs to be done and then we’ll be right in the heart of fire season,” he said. “We’re hoping at the end of fire season, we’ll start getting community members together, emergency services personnel including the fire district folks, sit down and put our heads together to see what we can create for the next 30-50 years.”
He thanked the volunteers and community members for their support.
According to Cascade School District Superintendent Bill Motsenbocker, the Beaver Valley Community Recreation Association also submitted a bid for the property but it was outside the guidelines of the purchase and sale agreement.