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Empty station to open early

Oregon City's South End Station, sitting empty for five years, will open seven months early in July 2008

Oregon City's South End Fire Station will open July 1, 2008; far behind the city's original schedule but far ahead of more recent timetables.

The station at 19001 South End Road has been sitting vacant since 2002 because Oregon City didn't have the funds to open it. When Clackamas County Fire District #1 annexed the city into its boundaries in November, it promised to open South End by February 2009. After tax collections exceeded expectations, the district said it would open early.

'Pure, unadulturated joy,' Oregon City Mayor Alice Norris said of the station opening early. 'This has been the hopes and the dreams of the city and its citizens for five years, when the city stepped up big time and voted for the opening of South End Station and improved response times.'

While increased tax revenues helped accelerate the timetable for South End's opening, CCFD #1 Fire Chief Ed Kirchhofer said the move also saves the district money on training. CCFD #1 typically hires employees once a year so they can go though a special fire academy training course in spring. Opening the South End Station in 2009 would have meant the extra expense of holding two fire academies in one year.

Kirchhofer said the district will bring on six new firefighters to staff the station, along with a smaller truck known as a type six-brush engine. By July 2009 it will transition into a full-service engine station, which is also ahead of schedule. Kirchhofer said it takes six to eight months from the time of order for manufacturers to deliver a fire truck, plus additional time to have the truck outfitted and equipped.

'(City residents) will see dramatically improved response times, particularly in the South End area,' Kirchhofer said, noting that other station's in the area are busy, and can be tied up during a call.

CCFD #1 took over fire service for Oregon City in 2003 under contract. As the cost of service rose, Oregon City residents were paying significantly less than others in the district for service, leading CCFD #1 to terminate the contract and work to annex the city into its district. Voters approved the move by a 3 to 1 margin in November.