The City of Boise will head back to the drawing board to determine the location of a fire station in Northwest Boise neighbors say call overdue.
On Tuesday, Boise City Council unanimously voted to approve a new master siting plan for the Boise Fire Department that did not name a specific location for a Northwest Fire Station. The city’s original plan called to build the the fire station on Gary Lane. Changes in plans from nearby fire departments and the recent leadership change at the Boise Fire pushed the department to take another look.
Fire coverage on Boise’s semi-rural northwestern edge has been a hot topic in recent years. As farmland in the area began to develop into subdivisions and apartment complexes after annexation into Boise in 2014 and 2015, neighbors expressed frustration at the lack of a Boise fire station in the area. Concerns about fire response times in the neighborhood tucked close to Boise’s fire-prone foothills dominated multiple planning hearings for new developments dating back to 2017.
‘A deliberate act’
Newly minted Boise Fire Chief Mark Niemeyer said he plans to propose a location for the Northwest fire station in the first few months of 2021. In the meantime, he would like to to reevaluate all of the options and pick the best location for the much-needed station.
“Station planning is a deliberate act and we want to make sure when we put concrete in the ground that it’s in the right location ten years down the road, 15 years down the road and 20 years down the road,” Niemeyer said.
In June 2019, Boise City Council gave the green light for former Fire Chief Dennis Doan to proceed building a fire station near Gary Lane and Tobi Street. The plan called for collaboration with North Ada County Fire and Rescue to share the costs of building the Northwest Boise station. That would allow NACFR to shutter an aging station on Glenwood Street in a floodplain.
But, Niemeyer said within recent weeks North Ada County Fire and Rescue changed course and decided they would like to keep the Glenwood Station open after all. Another factor that recently shifted is Eagle Fire Department plans to move its fire station on Floating Feather Road, which serves Northwest Boise.
These recent changes combined with Niemeyer coming on board necessitated a revaluation of the site.
Mixed reception from neighbors
Northwest Neighborhood Association President Richard Llewellyn, a fierce critic of development in the area of the city without infrastructure keeping pace, tipped his hat to city officials in his comments.
“This evening there have been very good signs that Boise may now confront (this) problem directly and head on,” he said. “For that we thank our new mayor and the change of leadership at Boise Fire, but most of all we thank our neighbor Erika Schofield for her relentless sacrifice for this issue.”
Schofield, another board member of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, has been a major force behind the neighborhood association researching and advocating for more fire coverage in the area. She strongly opposes the fire station being built on Gary Lane because she said it leaves gaps in the fire service response times in the area because of its location.
Instead, she favors the city building the fire station on Pierce Park Lane. The city considered this site for a fire station years before Doan’s proposal to build on Gary Lane. Schofield said instead of voting to approve the master site map with an undefined location for a fire station in Northwest Boise she would have preferred to see the city vote for a map that sites the station on Pierce Park Lane.
“I would prefer that (the plan for a Pierce Park Lane station) doesn’t, in one fell swoop, just disappear,” she said.