Lynden Fire Chief Mark Billmire looks over the plans to add a second floor to the north end of the fire station on Fourth Street.  (Brent Lindquist/Lynden Tribune)

If all goes as hoped, the expansion will be finished in a year 

LYNDEN — The Lynden Fire Department is bursting at its proverbial seams. That might be because the Fourth Street station remains at the same dimensions as when it was built 50 years ago.

Of course, in reality there has been growth of the department, and the city, in the meantime.

Lynden Fire Chief Mark Billmire said the station originally functioned for an all-volunteer firefighter crew. Then the department grew toward hiring full-time firefighters, adding offices and storage in the process. Existing space was remodeled and repurposed. Physical expansion is deterred by the brick construction of the building.

Now fire response crews are on 24-hour shifts.

Billmire said the department plans to add a second story above its north portion consisting of bedrooms and a locker room facility with showers.

“We’ve kind of outgrown the station. It was not designed for living quarters,” Billmire said. “That’s our intent, to allow for extra bedrooms and locker rooms, shower rooms — make it a little more livable for the firefighters.”

That second story could have a little vintage flair with it.

“The plan is to have a fire pole,” Billmire said. “There are not too many of those around much longer. Most of the stations that originally had those are kind of obsolete nowadays, but our plan is to have one, as well as stairs down to the first floor.”

The second floor of about 2,000 square feet is planned to include six bedrooms to account for the four full-time firefighters on duty each day and the potential for volunteers coming in for extra 12-hour shifts currently without a place to sleep. The space will have the potential for two additional bedrooms as well. 

Locker space is a problem at the moment, Billester said. Each dorm room will have three individual lockers in the expansion.

On the first floor, the department plans to create better office areas, expand the kitchen space and generally improve the flow of everything. The workout area will also be greatly improved, Billmire said.

“We’re going to enclose the workout area, which right now is just open to the apparatus bays, which isn’t the best scenario when you’re exercising and there are some residual diesel fumes that they’re going to be breathing in,” he said.

The station will also add a second entrance to the basement, which is mostly used for storage. The latest architectural plans show that entrance enclosed to be protected against adverse weather.

Funded entirely through debt service, the construction will allow the station to accommodate for all the growth that has taken place since the facility’s construction decades ago, Billmire said. The station has 13 full-time firefighters and 10 volunteers, on a rotating shift schedule, in addition to office and administrative staff.

“We have no room for expansion,” he said. “There is talk of a fifth paramedic unit for the county, and Lynden is one of the sites that is being considered for that. We would have no place to put them. We’ve only got the four bedrooms, so that’s one of the advantages of expanding upstairs.”

The department is in final stages of the architectural design with Tim Faber of Bellingham’s King Architecture. This phase involves choosing floor types, colors and finishes for the expansion, Billmire said. The next phase will be putting the project out to bid sometime in mid-November.

The tentative plan is to start construction close to the start of 2021.

In the meantime, Billmire and the Lynden Fire Department are searching for a temporary home, as construction is expected to last about nine months. Some options include the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds, the Veritas building on East Badger Road and North Whatcom Fire & Rescue’s Northwood Fire Station.

“The ideal scenario is we completely vacate this (Fourth Street station), so (builders) can come in and do what they need to do,” Billmire said. “That will cut down on costs and construction time.”

If construction can begin as planned in early January and continue on schedule, the station expansion should be complete by early October 2021.

“It’s been in the works for a long time,” Billmire said. “I know it’s been on the capital plan and talked about for 10-plus years.”