Firefighters assigned to Fire Station 9, in Long Beach’s Los Cerritos neighborhood, have been living in trailers outside another nearby station since their home base shut down in June because of mold.
But that is set to change soon, city officials announced this week. Fire Chief Xavier Espino wrote in a Monday, Jan. 27, memo that Long Beach will construct a temporary facility before a new Fire Station 9 is built. City staff have also chosen a potential location for a new permanent facility.
Long Beach looked at 15 locations for a temporary site before determining the old site, at 3917 Long Beach Blvd., is the best fit, according to Espino’s memo. So Long Beach will demolish the old building and then get to work on installing temporary structures. Espino wrote that the Fire Department must undergo more work on the demolition process before he could have an estimate on when the firefighters could relocate, but he expected to have more information in June.
While Long Beach has searched for a temporary site, it has also been on the lookout for a property where Fire Station 9 can fully relocate. Espino’s memo said a likely site is 4150 Long Beach Blvd., which is currently an office building for a construction company. City staff have been in “productive discussions” with the property owner there, Espino wrote, and the City Council could vote on an agreement in closed session by the end of March.
For Fire Union President Rex Pritchard, the move can’t come quickly enough.
“We’ve had firefighters living in and responding from trailers,” he said Wednesday, Jan. 29. “These trailers are meant for like a week or two, and they’ve been in these for over eight months.
“No one except firefighters would tolerate it this long,” he said about the trailers’ cramped quarters. “We’re here to serve the community, and we know what our mission is, and they’re doing it everyday since this has happened. But it does wear on you.”
Councilman Al Austin, whose Eighth District encompasses Fire Station 9, directed questions about the relocation plan to city staff. But he said the folks in City Hall have been working as quickly as possible to find a better site for the firefighters.
“City staff has not taken this issue lightly,” Austin said. “All things considered, I think we’re moving at a pace that is pretty rapid. Hopefully, we will have suitable accommodations for our firefighters soon.”
Pritchard, for his part, praised Austin and the work he’s done to prioritize a new Fire Station 9.
“We’re super happy with Councilman Austin,” he said. “Station 9 was identified as a problem as far back as 2008, in a report given to the City Council, and Al Austin’s the first council member to actually get us to where we’re going and getting a new Station 9. He’s been a champion on the issue.”
But, Pritchard warned, the issues that led to Fire Station 9’s closure likely aren’t limited to that facility.
“What should be recognized with Station 9 is that if the city and the Fire Department doesn’t develop a plan, it’s just a matter of time before this happens at another fire station in another council district because our stations are all old,” he said. “I’m hoping what Station 9 brings to light is that there needs to be a long-term plan in how we address this, so we’re being proactive rather than reactive.”