Friday, January 06, 2006 | Mission Valley could be a case study in sprawl. The shopping mall-turned-borough has an IKEA, a Costco, a Sears, a K-Mart, a Loews Hardware Store and even a stadium.
But there is one thing Mission Valley does not have: a fire station.
If all goes according to plan, this will change soon.
Fire officials said that by the end of February, Mission Valley would be home to a shiny new (temporary) fire station – something the valley has been in dire need of since it began expanding in the late 1960s. Since the New Year, an even more temporary crew has been holding shop inside of a ticket office at Qualcomm Stadium.
If the lumber in Lowes Hardware goes up in flames, or another oil tanker tips over in front of Qualcomm Stadium, residents will know that a fire engine is in their area, ready to respond, for the first time ever. A new fire station in the heavily developed area protects Mission Valley’s surrounding areas, because their fire crews will not be pulled away from their home turf to protect the valley.
But the temporary station is merely a temporary solution to the inadequacies of Mission Valley’s fire-protection.
Before San Diego’s financial demise, city officials intended to build a permanent fire station in Mission Valley. Start-up costs for such a project were to be about $1.2 million. But with the city’s suspended credit rating, it cannot float the necessary bonds to cover the costs of building a permanent station, leaving the project in limbo.
So on Nov. 21, the City Council unanimously voted to erect a temporary station on the southwest side of the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot.
City Councilwoman Donna Frye, whose District 6 includes the Mission Valley, said that growing a neighborhood its size without a fire station “is just crazy.”
“This cuts response times down significantly,” Frye said. “In fact I think there was a condo fire there yesterday and it was a much better response time.”
The doublewide trailer that is currently being uprooted from Del Cerro and moved to the valley will house four firefighters and contain a kitchen, computer systems and a large tent that will serve as the fire engine’s parking garage.
The council appropriated slightly more than $1.4 million to build and operate the station in fiscal year 2006. It would need more than $7 million to complete its first permanent station, something fire officials say has been on their development agenda for more than 20 years.
Since 1984, the residential population of Mission Valley has doubled, and now totals 14,286 residents. This number does not include the more than 60,000 people that flock to Qualcomm Stadium for Chargers games, and the tens of thousands of shoppers that visit Fashion Valley, particularly during the holiday season.
La Jolla has a population roughly three times the size of Mission Valley’s of about 42,000. Three fire stations service this area.
Just weeks before fire officials installed a crew in the temporary offices of the temporary station, a tanker carrying 4,000 gallons of gasoline went up in flames in front of Qualcomm Stadium.
Mayor Jerry Sanders sped to the scene of the blaze, and was quick to tout the need for a fire station in Mission Valley.
“It took (firefighters) nine minutes to get here and that’s because we don’t have a station in Mission Valley,” Sanders said on Dec. 7. “The fire chief has been warning us about the problems that could occur from that. We’ve seen those today.”
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