HARRISBURG — Staff of the Harrisburg Fire District were busy last week furnishing four sleeping quarters in a new $6.4 million fire hall project.

The bedroom furniture, as well as a large conference table, were crafted by Oregon Corrections Enterprises.

Bob Bronson, chairman of the Harrisburg Fire and Rescue District, was eager to show off the new digs, which were approved by a 60-vote margin in November 2016. In fact, when Bronson went to bed that election night, the proposed 83-cents-per-$1,000 bond levy was failing, but all that changed with late-night drop-box ballot counting.

Three previous bond attempts had failed.

“This new building has 14,800 square feet compared to our old building that was built in 1964 and was added onto for a total of 8,500 square feet,” he said.

The old building was not designed with any seismic supports in place. It also had only one restroom and no sleeping quarters or showers. The sleeping quarters may help attract young firefighters breaking into the business as volunteers, officials said.

The new fire hall includes office space and ample room for trucks and equipment as well as a rescue boat, plus sleeping quarters and restroom and shower facilities for both male and female firefighters. Three of the district’s 19 volunteers are women, according to Fire Chief Bart Griffith.

Bronson said the district serves an 86-square-mile area and the 3,000 residents of Harrisburg.

“We’re somewhat unique in that we have the river, two railroad tracks, industry, farming and Interstate 5 all in our service area,” he said.

Calls for service topped 600 last year, up from more than 400 the previous year.

Because the Willamette River flows through the heart of the community, Bronson said the new building was set a foot higher on its foundation than other buildings in town in the event of a major flood.

“We installed a large diesel-powered generator in case power is out and we have 1,000 gallons and 500 gallons of gasoline in above-ground tanks,” he said. “If there was a major earthquake, Oregon does not have a major pipeline of fuel on reserve. We could operate for quite a while.”

The building was designed by Mackenzie and Associates, which also designed the Albany fire station and police department buildings.

Bronson praised general contractor GBC Construction of Corvallis.

“They were wonderful to deal with,” he said. “They worked with us whenever we saw something that might work better. This was a very hands-on building project.”

According to Bronson, the district had planned to build on three acres on the east side of town, but decided to keep the fire hall closer to the center of the community, on Smith Street. The original three acres is for sale.

The new fire hall is directly in front of the community’s museum and west of the old fire hall, which will be retained and used as an equipment maintenance facility, as well as training site.

“We also think this site is good because we are within walking distance to the school and in the event of a natural disaster, we could stage people in the museum, old fire hall and school, all of which are within walking distance,” Bronson said.

The building includes a full-service kitchen, meeting space and a large room with overstuffed chairs and big-screen TV.

The department is not staffed 24/7, but Fire Chief Griffith said volunteers are already gathering in the new TV room, which means they're onsite if a call comes in.

Bronson is especially proud of five folding doors on the north side of the building.

“They open and close much more quickly than roll-up doors,” he said. “I saw them on a building in Alaska. They cost $50,000, but they are great.”

Construction began in June 2018.

Per state regulations, the building includes an array of solar panels.

According to Fire Chief Griffith, the district has three full-time paid staff members, himself; assist chief and lieutenants Mike Christensen and Devin Smith. Leo Giles is the part-time assistant chief and Erica Nicol is the part-time administrative assistant.

“This new building is a blessing,” he said. “It has really stepped up our presence and will make things better. We’ve moved into the 21st century.”

An open house with a barbecue and tours will be held from noon until 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24.

Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.

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