The 99-foot Ralph J. Scott fireboat has a home of its own set to be opened for viewing today at Berth 86 in San Pedro.

Waterfront firehouse shows off design wonders

Pumped up

By Caroline Brady

    Harbor Area residents will have a chance to tour the newest architectural addition to the San Pedro waterfront today during a dedication ceremony and open house for Fire Station 112 at Berth 86.

     With its huge barrel-vault ceiling, its boldly accented terra-cotta color scheme and its large patio, the 17,823-square-foot facility definitely is not your average fire station.

    "This might be the nicest fire station in the world," said fireboat pilot Marc Young.  "It's a marvelous physical plant, and the location is the best."

    Fourteen people live and work out of the station--eight fire boat crew members, a four-member engine team and two rescue ambulance workers, Young said.

    "Handsome is how I would describe it," he said.  "It's functional, but also it's very pleasant for us.  You'd pay big bucks to stay in a hotel in a location like this."

    The Los Angeles Harbor Department footed the $12.3 million construction bill for the station, which is one of the largest Los Angeles Fire Department stations in the city.

    But then again, not all fire stations have to make room for a 99-foot fireboat.

    Fire boat at the ready

    The Ralph J. Scott, also known as Fireboat No. 2, docks under the station's huge archway, ready at a moment's notice to snuff out fires that break out anywhere between the Vincent Thomas Bridge and the breakwater.

    Although the fireboat celebrates its 70th birthday this year and has achieved National Historic Landmark status, it remains one of the city's strongest firefighting tools, Young said.

    "It's still the greatest pumper in the port," he said.  "It can do anything.  It pumps mor than 18,000 gallons of water a minute.  It can go sideways.  It can spray up to 450 feet.

    "This boat is truly amazing."

    The New station provides better protection for the boat, which was docked outdoors for the past nine years, Young said.

    In an effort to showcase the fireboat, the station's designers included a wall of windows on the south side of the archway dock.  A pedestrian walkway and observation deck led up to the viewing area, which is decorated with photos of famous fires the boat helped extinguish.

    "They specifically designed this station so that people could come over here and view the boat." Young said.  "They really built this with the public in mind.

    Young said the station also is much more comfortable than the firefighters' previous home --cramped modular units next to the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.  The units were supposed to be a temporary replacement for a fireboat station that was demolished to make room for port expansion, but firefighters ended up staying there for almost a decade.

    Comfort levels

    "The physical comfort of this place compared to the other place is tremendous." Young said.  "You can actually stand up straight and stretch your legs here."

    The station also is a new home for the engine team and the rescue crew that worked out of 70-year-old Fire Station 53 until it closed last month.

  To make the station more homey, firefighters pitched into buy matching recliners and a large stereo television in the training room.  They also have a regulation-size racquetball court to help keep them in shape.

    Port construction manager Bruce Seaton said he's pleased with the way the project turned out--even if it came in $2.4 million over budget and eight months behind schedule.

    Seaton explained that contractors John R. Hundley Inc. of Garden Grove ran into a handful of unexpected glitches that delayed the project and increased costs.

Construction delays

    The soil under the site turned out to be softer than expected, which created problems in driving the piles to support the facility.  Then crews discovered some old Navy fuel pipelines on the site that had to be removed and the contamination cleaned up. Finally, heavy rains added to the delays.

    Despite the problems, Seaton said, he's satisfied with the project,which also provided a new wooden wharf and an upgraded building for Wilmington Transportation Co.

    "The community has a gorgeous plaza where they can stand and look and watch the fireboat," Seaton said.  "I think from an architectural standpoint and with the community involvement, this is an outstanding example of the port's involvement with the community.  And it's a great example of two city departments working together."


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