The deaths of two firefighters attempting to rescue two people from a burning San Pablo house on July 21, 2007 was called the worst tragedy in the Contra Costa Fire Protection District’s (ConFire) history. Since then, ConFire has remembered Capt. Matt Burton and Fire Engineer Scott Desmond not just with regular memorials, but also through lengthy investigations resulting in dozens of procedural changes aimed at ensuring such a tragedy never happens again.
Today, their memory became even more permanent.
At a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new Fire Station 70 at 1800 23rd St. in San Pablo, ConFire Fire Chief Lewis Broschard announced that the new state-of-the-art station, a long-needed replacement for the existing facility at 13928 San Pablo Ave., will be dedicated in honor of Capt. Burton and Engineer Desmond.
The city and county partnered on both the land and funding for the $13 million Fire Station 70, which is expected to be completed in about 17 months.
“The station serves as a place to honor and remember their sacrifice and to ensure we never forget,” Vince Wells, president of United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County, said during the groundbreaking ceremony. “It’s a true honor to know this station will be dedicated in their names.”
Capt. Burton’s wife, Chantel, said she was grateful for the lasting memorial. At Tuesday’s groundbreaking, which was attended by dozens of public safety personnel and local elected officials, Chantel echoed the sentiments of other fire officials that a new Fire Station 70 is long overdue.
The station, which was where Capt. Burton and Engineer Desmond had served, currently operates out of modular buildings that were installed in 1992 after the permanent station was damaged after the Loma Prieta earthquake. The facility has been considered aging and inadequate for years.
Three years ago, discussions began with the fire district, the city of San Pablo and Contra Costa County to build a new fire station. The city agreed to a land swap agreement to locate the station at 1800 23rd St., and also pitched in $4.5 million toward the project.
The new station will be a two-story structure with three apparatus bays, a kitchen, dorm rooms, offices, and both indoor and outdoor spaces for firefighter training, among other amenities. A photovoltaic roof system will help the fire station meet LEED Silver equivalency per the county’s standard for public buildings.
The facility will be constructed to handle major earthquakes, enabling it to be a command post in disaster response. It is also geared toward ensuring better health for workers in an industry heavily impacted by cancer diagnoses, Chief Broschard said. Its design delineates “clean and dirty” spaces with the aim of keeping potential carcinogens out of living quarters,” the fire chief said. State of the art decontamination showers, turnout extractors, a decontamination sauna and modern systems to extract diesel exhaust particulates will assist in that regard.
“This station will better support our firefighters, allow for a better quality of life, promoting health, training and community interaction in the immediate area of Station 70 and neighboring communities,” Broschard said.
Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia lauded the fire station as one of a number of new projects in San Pablo helping to increase services to residents and beautify the community, including the newly built library, health center, Women Infant and Children’s center, and mental health center. He said a strong partnership between the city and county is responsible for the positive developments in San Pablo.
“When we look at placing stations, we want to do it in a way that improves response time,” Gioia said. “And this station is more centrally located to many of the residents in San Pablo for both EMS and fire call.”
In terms of aesthetics, San Pablo Mayor Rich Kinney said the new fire station could rival the new San Pablo City Hall, which is currently under construction.
“We are very grateful to every partner that has had any involvement in bringing this about,” the mayor said. “This building is going to be the beauty of this part of San Pablo.”