Who among us did not have "firefighter" on our shortlist of desired careers at age seven? Fire poles and dalmatians are awesome, firefighters are heroes, and their lifestyle--like five days off per week to kick it at the beach--rocks (which is why these dudes are built like bowling balls and star in en fuego charity calendars).
So lest you think the fact that Station 11 in West Seattle's Highland Park neighborhood is about to get a new ladder truck is something less than the most important news on the planet, remember, all firefighter news carries mortal gravitas. But seriously, this is no run of the mill trade-in at the SFD motor pool. Allow us to explain.Mention the word "viaduct" to any West Seattleite, and you'll get a response somewhere along the lines of "aw, shit -- can we talk about how good the peaches are this time of year instead?" The viaduct that'll be on most of their minds is that of Alaskan Way, soon to crumble and be replaced by a tunnel (unless Mike McGinn gets his way). But it's the imminent Spokane Street Viaduct (which is what the West Seattle Bridge becomes to the west of 99) redo that stands to choke folks on the peninsula first.
Construction on that project is set to begin in early 2010. What's that got to do with the Highland Park fire station? Plenty. Per department protocol, five engine trucks and two ladder trucks must be dispatched to any major fire. Currently, there's only one ladder truck located in a West Seattle firehouse, and that's in the Junction. The second comes from a station in SoDo.
But once construction starts on the Spokane span, thus closing westbound access ramps, that SoDo truck won't be able to make it to West Seattle's more southerly reaches within the required response time. Hence, the Highland Park station, which has the capacity to park a ladder truck, will be getting a hand-me-down from the department's existing fleet, confirms SFD spokesperson Helen Fitzpatrick.
Says one Station 11 firefighter, who asked to remain nameless, "Our little station is going to get bigger for about two years. Should be fun!" And safe.
Lauren Lynch contributed reporting to this account.