Drawings for the planned firehouse for the Keene Volunteer Fire Department.
Keene's Fire Station, destroyed on August 28, 2011 by Tropical Storm Irene, will be rebuilt on higher ground. Construction is set to begin in August 2012. Private tax-deductible gifts will be necessary to raise adequate funding for the project.
The New Fire Department
Since the storm, Keene Fire Department has housed its equipment, four fire trucks and one ambulance, at temporary sites in an attempt to maintain the same level of emergency readiness. The new site of the all-volunteer department is directly across from the Stewart's Shop on Route 73 where Mountain Manor Lodge now stands. Sean Foran, project manager of Division of Fire Protection Services for the Syracuse construction management company Hueber Breuer, has been project consultant since October for a range of services, from site selection and financing to construction management.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, new emergency facilities are classified as Essential Facilities, which must be constructed to be the last structures standing after a disaster. This requirement adds to construction costs.
The Keene Fire Department volunteers provide ambulance, fire and rescue services. Keene requires two fire houses who work together for rapid response to emergencies. The Town of Keene, which covers 156 square miles, is divided into two fire districts. Keene Fire Department (District #1) covers the entire Town of Keene and responds to calls in Upper Jay, Jay, AuSable Forks, Lake Placid, Wilmington, Elizabethtown, and New Russia. The second district is Keene Valley (District #2), five miles south, who also responds to the neighboring districts. While most of the 450 households lie within five miles of the center of town, there are settlements at the extreme ends of the town's boundaries, including those high on the hillsides. Further, Keene and Keene Valley are cut off from each other in emergency weather situations, especially high water. Emergency response time would be inadequate should there be a single fire station serving the entire area.
Finances and Fundraising
The total cost of purchasing new land, demolishing currently existing structures, and building the new station in compliance with the emergency structure codes enacted after Sept. 11, 2001, will cost a maximum of $2.3 million. In December, the town applied for $1.5 million from FEMA and recently received a grant notification of $680,000. Insurance paid $635,000. On April 24, a Town referendum to approve the project and a $500,000 borrowing passed by a vote of 116-35. The loan will take the form of a 20 year bond structured so that local taxes won't have to increase to pay it back. Those three sources of funds total $1,815,000 toward the $2,300,000 cost.
“The generous donors to Keene Flood Recovery Fund at the Adirondack Community Trust supported the rebuilding of our homes and businesses,” said Keene Fire Commissioner Alan Carey. “With deep gratitude, we must again ask for help, this time for the first responders who protect us all.”
The fundraising goal is $500,000. Town members Tom Both, Dave Deyo and Pat Hickey have agreed to lead the private fundraising effort. Already, more than $100,000 has been contributed toward the new fire house, which has helped get the project started.
How to Give
The Keene Fire Department has established a Fund at the Adirondack Community Trust (ACT) to administer gifts for the new fire house. ACT is the community foundation serving the Adirondack region. It administered the Keene Flood Recovery Fund, which recently closed successfully. If you would like to make a tax deductible gift for the fire department's new building, you may send a check payable to the Keene Fire Department Fund directly to ACT at Post Office Box 288, Lake Placid, N.Y., 12946, or contact Executive Director Cali Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can contact Jody Whitney, Fire Chief, at email@example.com for more information about the fire department. Information will also be available at the www.keenefiredept.com website soon.