It’s possible that nobody is more excited about the new 18,000-square-foot Crooked River Ranch Fire District station than Iva Yost, who helped found the fire district with husband Ken and fellow Crooked River Ranch resident Bob Ward more than 30 years ago.
When the Yosts moved to Crooked River Ranch in 1977, they were both freshly retired from longtime careers in the fire protection industry – Ken was a Portland firefighter and Iva had sat on several fire department and district boards over the previous 20-plus years. The ranch was a fledgling community of around 250 people and there was no nearby fire department to protect their property from burning or help in a medical crisis.
Recognizing a need, the couple and Ward worked to see the passage of a $50,000 levy to found the fire district and build a station. In a demonstration of their commitment, the Yosts even took out a mortgage on their house to purchase the district’s first fire truck, a 1954 White Pumper.
“When Ken was asked to be the first fire chief, he was glad to accept,” Iva said. “He would be so thrilled if he had lived to see this new fire station because firefighting was very dear to his heart, as it was to mine and still is. They needed a new station desperately and this one is just beautiful.”
The new station is the result of a $2.75 million levy passed by voters in November 2006. Kirby Nagelhout Construction of Bend was selected as general contractor and Portland-based Ivars Lazdins was chosen as architect on the advice of Redmond Fire Chief Tim Moor, who was pleased with Lazdins’ work on the new fire station in Terrebonne.
Now nearing completion, the building is comfortable and state-of-the-art with solar power capabilities, separate bunks for each firefighter on duty, a dining room, fitness room, large kitchen, day room, administrative offices, conference room and a humongous 10,000-square-foot bay with heated floors and room for all of the district’s emergency medical and fire response vehicles and equipment.
“We’ve made this building as energy efficient as we possibly can,” said Lexus Johnson, who worked as project manager on behalf of the fire district. “If people leave a room in the building, the lights go out automatically within 30 seconds because they are attached to motion sensors. There are no fossil fuels in this building except propane for cooking. We’ve already reinforced the ceiling structure to add solar panels in the future.”
It’s a far cry from the district’s former station, which is less than one-third the size and has required some creative uses of space now that the district serves more than 4,500 ranch residents. In recent years, both full- and part-time staff have been hired and the number of volunteers continues to grow.
“At our old station we had to park five of our trucks outside all year round, meaning some of them could not be used in the winter,” said Crooked River Ranch Fire District Chief Larry Langley. “That was a real problem because we would have half as much water as usual to respond with. Also, we had no room for an office or a bedroom. Our people were sleeping in an office on a bed that pulls out from the wall and the day room was doubling as the training room and kitchen.”
Administrative Assistant Gail Martin has worked for the fire district since 1999 and said everybody is excited to move into the new station. She said she is personally looking forward to having a new office, minus the piles of storage boxes she shares her space with now.
“Everyone in the building is just anxious,” she said. “It will do a lot for morale and it’s a building that the community has built. I know the community is proud of this building, and most of them haven’t even been inside yet. I’ve had people come in for their burn permits and talk about how beautiful the building is and what an asset it is to the community.”
The brick building sits on 10 acres, has seven bay doors for quick exits by trucks and ambulances, and a metal, terracotta-colored roof.
“The idea was to make the building blend with the surrounding area and to pick colors and choose colors that would be compatible with the landscape and so forth,” Johnson said. “If you go out to the street and look at the building and look at the surrounding houses, I think you will find the colors all blend. So we didn’t do anything like paint it white or some off color.”
Plans to add solar panels to the roof will be completed this summer thanks to a $175,000 grant from the Ford Family Foundation of Roseburg. The photovoltaic cells will help save tax dollars by powering the building’s boilers and providing electricity for heat.
“It’s going to be a real plus for us and it’s not going to be paid for by taxpayer dollars,” Langley said. “It will save money on electricity and we’re currently putting in for some other grants through the Energy Trust of Oregon to save even more.”
Joe Waggoner, project manager on behalf of Kirby Nagelhout Construction, said constructing the building was an enjoyable process with few hassles.
“This is my second project with this particular architect and he was a pleasure to deal with,” Waggoner said. “And Lex Johnson was extremely good to work with. He’s a good communicator and had a good idea of where he wanted the project to go and what he wanted to end up with. We think we’ve managed to accomplish that.”
Waggoner said the new building is expected to serve the needs of Crooked River Ranch for the next 50 years.
“It’s a terrific facility and is certainly large enough to handle the growth in Central Oregon,” he said. “They also set themselves up for the future well with the potential for solar.”
Langley said he expects to move to the new building sometime in April and hold an open house for the community by late May. When that happens, he will have a particularly beautiful office to show off, thanks to Iva.
In memory of her late husband, Iva has raised more than $7,000 to buy a desk and other furnishings for the chief’s office. She did so through an appeal to friends and the sale of some of her personal belongings. Langley said he is so appreciative of Iva’s efforts that he is planning something special in return.
“There will be a plaque to commemorate them, because they put their hearts and souls into the fire district,” he said. “There will be a permanent marker saying the room is dedicated to Ken and Iva Yost.”
Iva said she is just happy to continue being involved in something that has been a rewarding part of her life for so many years.
“Firefighters are a special kind of people,” she said. “I’m so pleased to think that at last they’ve gotten a new fire station. They have such a great crew and the new building will be an incentive to make them even greater. Everybody on the ranch should be really pleased.”