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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, April 25, 2005

Age catches up with McCully fire station

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

The McCully fire station, built in 1948, is considered obsolete and is about to be replaced.

Fire Department Capt. Ernie Akana is among the firefighters working at the McCully fire station, where the dormitory has been walled off because of leaks and missing floor tiles.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The station is a historic building, but is slowly falling apart and modern fire trucks no longer fit inside the maintenance area, city officials said. The city says it will be more efficient and less expensive to tear it down and build a new station than to renovate the aging structure.

"The new trucks cannot even fit in that building," said Clifford Lau, chief of the facilities division of the city Department of Design and Construction. "They are taller and cannot fit it. It is just not practical to renovate."

The city has filed a draft environmental assessment for the new McCully fire station. After all permits are obtained, the contract for the $3.5 million station is expected to be awarded by the end of the year and work begin by mid-2006. The project will take about a year to complete, Lau said.

The Honolulu Fire Department opened the station shortly after World War II to serve the growing McCully-Mo'ili'ili neighborhood. It's at the corner of Date Street and University Avenue.

Currently, fire trucks must be backed into the station from Date Street, but the new design will allow firefighters to drive the trucks in from Date and exit on University.

A shiny ladder truck stands ready at the McCully fire station, which was built in 1948. The city has filed a draft environmental assessment to build a new McCully fire station.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

"In the design of fire stations, it is a lot easier to drive through the apparatus bay than to reverse a truck inside," Lau said. "That is a standard of fire station design. You try to achieve that kind of configuration."

HFD Capt. Bill Donnelly, who is the commander of a crew at the McCully station, said although the building is fully operational, there are many problems that need to be addressed. Parts of the roof leak and concrete walls are falling apart. The tower has been condemned and the electrical system is inadequate for current computer systems.

"The new station is a necessity," Donnelly said. "We need it over here."

The fire department has more than 40 stations, some dating to the early 1900s. On average, the city tries to renovate, rebuild or refurbish one station a year, Lau said.

The new McCully station will be a two-story structure encompassing 9,000 square feet.

There will be a communications office, exercise room, dormitories, kitchen and dining areas and 14 parking stalls.

The station is home to one engine company and one ladder company. During construction, the engine company will remain on site with firefighters housed in trailers and the ladder company will be relocated to another area station.

"The new station will give us a new level of efficiency in our emergency services that we don't have right now," Donnelly said. "Right now it is very archaic. This station is not ready for the 21st century."

Ron Lockwood, chairman of the McCully/Mo'ili'ili Neighborhood Board, said the community supports the city's plan and is looking forward to the added protection the modern facility will bring.

"We've been asking every month for years when they are going to rebuild it and are delighted we have an answer finally," Lockwood said.

Reach James Gonser at 535-2431 or jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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To comment

The city has filed a draft environmental assessment for the new McCully fire station.

Public comment is being accepted until May 23. Write to the City Department of Design & Construction, 650 S. King St., 11th floor, Honolulu, HI 96813. Include copies for the consultant, PBR Hawai'i, and the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.