Fire Station 61 in Buena Park rebuilt after fire

Thursday, July 12, 2018
Fire Station 61 in Buena Park rebuilt after fire
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A new fire station opened in Buena Park to replace one that was destroyed in a fire last year.

BUENA PARK, Calif. (KABC) -- Described as a state-of-the-art facility, Orange County Fire Authority Station 61 in Buena Park was officially unveiled Wednesday morning with a ribbon cutting.

"It's much more than a building. It's a home to our firefighters," said OCFA Assistant Chief Dave Anderson.

Firefighters of Station 61 have been without a permanent home since January of last year, when they found themselves fighting a fire at their own station house.

"It was the middle of the night," recalled OCFA Battalion Chief Kelly Zimmerman. "I was asleep. I heard a loud noise, what I'll describe as an explosion."

Zimmerman says he went downstairs to investigate, only to find the apparatus room completely engulfed in flames. He says he grabbed a radio to alert others.

Fortunately, the firefighters inside escaped unharmed but fire destroyed the station and four fire vehicles.

Officials say an investigation found the blaze was related to electrical parts in one of the trucks.

City officials say the 50-year-old fire station across the street from Knott's Berry Farm was aging and slated to be replaced with a $13 million facility before the fire.

"We thought we had time. All of a sudden we didn't have time and things had to go pretty fast," recalled Dr. Elizabeth Swift, Buena Park council member and OCFA board member.

Swift said insurance money from the fire helped cover some of the cost but the remainder - about $8 million - came from bonds, to be paid back over the next 20 years at a cost of $750,000 a year.

The new station at 7440 La Palma Ave. is just around the corner from the old location.

The new 18,000-square-foot building includes sleeping quarters, kitchen and dining facilities, a new workout room, and training space as well as a smart station alerting system.

"From the moment you call 911 and we answer the phone, within 54 seconds the station alarms at the local fire station are going off, said Anderson.

Station 61 is one of the busiest in Orange County, handling more than 7,000 emergency responses every year.

During the dedication ceremony, Swift announced a donation of more than 30 quilts - one for each firefighter - to replace some of the more personal things lost in the fire.

"A lot of love went into those quilts," said Barbra Riley, president of the Acacia Quilt Guild of OC.

Since the blaze, firefighters had been working out of temporary facilities.

This week, they moved into their new home.

"It really is a nice welcome home," said Zimmerman.