The fire station that houses a search and rescue truck used to save San Mateo County residents during disasters is undergoing emergency seismic upgrades in response to fears that an earthquake would trap the equipment and firefighters inside.
The ironic and potentially disaster-averting discovery of cracks near the base of Fire Station 33 in Hillsborough came as the result of an unrelated project to enlarge the station’s garage doors.
The station, built in the 1960s, will be home to a new $350,000, six-occupant search and rescue truck that would be deployed around the county during emergencies, including earthquakes, said Central County Fire Chief Don Dornell.
The 10-foot tall truck was so big that it could not fit in the doors used to house the old, two-occupant rescue truck. Hillsborough officials recently approved a $29,500 project to expand the doors so the new vehicle could fit, Dornell said.
During station visits, however, “significant cracks in the concrete” were found around the supporting post of the station, Dornell said.
“Any significant seismic event could cause failure of the main supporting post and collapse of the apparatus’ openings, thereby preventing exiting of the fire apparatus inside,” Dornell wrote to city officials after the cracks were discovered.
The truck will be housed in Hillsborough but is a joint venture between the Central County and San Mateo fire departments. The old truck has responded to rescue missions as far away as Foster City, Woodside and Pacifica, Dornell said.
Station 33 also houses a fire engine, a captain and two firefighters, one of whom is a paramedic.
The work began in early August, but city officials were not asked to approve the project until Monday’s City Council meeting because of safety concerns that prompted an immediate need for construction, Dornell said.
“We couldn’t waste any time getting it done,” he said, adding the cracks likely formed from normal wear and tear.
Dornell said the work should be completed within the next two weeks and there is no longer concern that the apparatus would be trapped inside if an earthquake were to occur.
The new rescue truck, which can carry much more equipment and personnel than the old one, is the only vehicle of its kind in San Mateo County, said Bill O’Callahan, supervisor with the county’s Office of Emergency Services.
The only other seismic upgrade to a fire station in the county that O’Callahan knew of was in San Mateo, where station 24 is being rebuilt.
Shoring up the station
Upgrades will ensure Fire Station 33 is safe in the event of an earthquake:
$350,000 cost of truck
6 occupants in truck (old truck could fit two)
32-34 feet truck length
10 feet truck height
24 of 63 total Central County personnel trained for rescue missions
3 personnel at the station
2 trucks inside the station
$35,477 cost to retrofit station