June 25, 2008

County sets aside funds for new Interstate 40 fire station

By Abby Sewell
Desert Dispatch

San Bernardino County has committed to building a new fire station on Interstate 40 between Barstow and Needles.

In the county’s 2008-09 budget, approved by the Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday, $300,000 was earmarked for design work on the new station. Andy Silva, a spokesman with 1st District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt’s office, said the exact location has not been determined, but Ludlow and Amboy have both been floated as possible sites. The size and other specifications of the station will be worked out in the design phase.

County spokesman David Wert said the county saw a need for a station, despite the sparse population of that stretch of I-40, because of the great distance between fire stations on the interstate. There are no fire stations, county or volunteer, on the 124 mile stretch of I-40 between Newberry Springs and Needles.

San Bernardino County Fire Department representatives did not return calls for comment, but Newberry Springs Fire Department Assistant Chief Steve Miller said the new station would take some pressure off his all-volunteer department, which currently responds to fires and collisions in Ludlow.

“It will certainly be a help in reducing response times out there on the 40,” he said.

The stretch of National Trails Highway between Amboy and Essex is in an even worse position than Ludlow, Miller said. The “no-man’s land” is between 60 and 80 miles from the closest fire stations in Newberry Springs, Needles, Baker and Twentynine Palms.

The most recently built county fire station, in Baker, was completed in 2006 and cost $3.5 million, Silva said. Wert said the county does not currently have an estimate on the cost of the I-40 station, but it will likely be in the same range.

“It’s definitely going to happen, and that’s good news for everyone who travels on Highway 40 and surrounding areas,” he said.

Wert said the county will begin the project this fiscal year. By the end of the summer, the county will start receiving bids for the design work, and construction could begin in the next year, Wert said. The county’s contingency fund, reserve fund, and capital improvements fund are all possible sources of funding for the project.