Frequently Asked Questions

We have put together this list to answer general questions about the fire levy capital improvement program. For information on specific projects, you can read more about each project by first clicking on the navigation bar on the left or on one of the links below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What will the levy program do and how much will it cost?

A. Over a nine-year period starting in 2004, the $197 million fire levy program will use $167.2 million in levy proceeds and other funding to improve and upgrade the entire fire and emergency response system in Seattle. There are four categories of improvements: neighborhood fire stations; support facilities; emergency preparedness; and marine fire response. For nine years, the owner of a median-valued Seattle home will pay an average of approximately $73 a year in property taxes to fund this program.

Neighborhood Stations
All but one of Seattle's neighborhood fire stations will be brought up to current seismic standards and other fire and safety codes; outfitted with systems to decontaminate firefighters and equipment from chemical, biological or other hazardous agents. (Station 5, located on the downtown waterfront is not included, because of the uncertainty about long-range plans for the Alaskan Way Viaduct and seawall.) Twelve new fire stations will be built to replace aging stations in West Seattle/Highpoint, West Seattle Junction, Fremont, West Queen Anne/Interbay, Greenwood, Roanoke, the Central District, Mt. Baker, Crown Hill, Hawthorne Hills, Lake City and Rainier Valley. A new station in the International District has replaced the old fire station in Pioneer Square.

Support Facilities
A new fire alarm center has been built to improve the department's coordination and response to fires and emergencies throughout the city. The new facility is located in a seismically safe area and housed with Fire Station 10 and a new Emergency Operations Center (see below). The co-location of these facilities is designed to enable fire and medical response to continue during earthquakes or other disasters.

A new fire training facility provides fire, emergency and disaster response training for firefighters and recruits. The facility has enabled the department to consolidate all of its major training programs at one location in Seattle, saving time and resources once spent on traveling to training facilities outside of the city. Previously, in-city training for the whole department took place at an existing fire station parking lot.

Emergency Preparedness
A new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been co-located on the same site as the new fire alarm center and Fire Station 10. The EOC is designed to withstand severe earthquakes and other disasters so that the fire department and emergency services can continue operating and protecting citizens during major crises.

Special hydrants have been placed at reservoirs, and hard suction hoses have been placed on all fire engines, so firefighters can draw water from reservoirs, Puget Sound and lakes if the city's water system is damaged during an earthquake.

Caches of emergency medical and shelter supplies have been placed in strategic locations throughout the city. The caches will ensure that areas of the city will have supplies if they are isolated during an earthquake or disaster.

Portable generators have been placed at community centers designated as emergency shelters to provide emergency power after an earthquake or other disaster.

Marine Fire Response
The fire department's marine program features a new large fire boat designed to protect Elliott Bay, the central waterfront, boats and marinas on the saltwater side of the Ballard locks. The existing fireboat, Chief Seattle, will be upgraded and moved to a freshwater location to protect businesses, homes, boats and marinas on the freshwater side of the locks. The City's marine fleets also includes a new small fireboat that can respond to fires and emergencies in either freshwater or saltwater.

Q. Why is so much being undertaken at one time?

A. The Seattle Fire Department has faced a number of challenges over the past few years — such as the Nisqually Earthquake, hazardous material spills, marina fires and the threat of terrorist attacks. Although the department has performed its duties exceptionally well, it operates from facilities that are 28 to 85 years old. This investment in our fire, emergency and disaster response systems and facilities will prepare our city for future emergencies and disasters.

This program will make fire stations seismically sound, improve coordination and communications on a daily basis and during disasters, enhance firefighter training programs, and provide adequate water-based fire and emergency response on both sides of the Ballard locks.

The federal government has also mandated certain changes and upgrades for fire stations in response to potential terrorist acts. This program will enable the City to meet the new federal guidelines for homeland security.

Q. Have the fire stations been properly maintained over the years?

A. Seattle's fire stations were built between 1918 and 1974, with most built before the Korean War. The City has provided routine maintenance on stations over the years, but like all buildings, they eventually need to be repaired and renovated if they are to keep pace with new demands and modern equipment. For example, many fire stations are outfitted with doors that are too narrow for modern fire engines and ladder trucks.

All of Seattle's fire stations are seismically vulnerable, and no amount of basic maintenance can change that. We need to retrofit all of our fire stations if we want to keep them standing and operational in the event of another major earthquake.

Q. What will happen to the historic stations once they aren't in use?

A. The City is proud that many of its fire stations are historic structures that add to the character of neighborhoods throughout the city. Due to limited area for expansion and other construction challenges, this program will close four historic fire stations and replace them with brand new stations nearby. These stations have been designated as landmarks. Once the new stations are built, these historic stations will be sold and the proceeds returned to the levy program.

Q. Where will the new facilities be located?

A. The City is building 12 new fire stations. Nine will be built at existing locations, and three will be built at new locations close to the existing stations to maintain the Fire Department's response times. The first of the new neighborhood fire stations, Fire Station 10, has been completed. The station location moved from Pioneer Square to a new site in the International District.

Q. Where will firefighters go while the stations are being rebuilt?

A. The fire department is committed to providing the same level of service to all neighborhoods during construction and renovation of the fire stations. In some cases, firefighters will remain in their stations during construction work, while others will be relocated to temporary facilities near their existing stations. The department will notify neighborhoods if their station will be temporarily relocated.

Q. Why is a new training center needed?

A. Seattle is the only major city in the region without a modern fire training facility. The city's old fire training facility was built in 1922, and had reached the end of its useful life. Some training required firefighters to travel outside the city. Today's firefighters face new challenges ranging from hazardous material spills to terrorist attacks, and it is important that they have a proper training facility in which to learn how to best protect citizens.

Q. What will happen to the fireboat Alki?

A. The 76 year-old Alki will remain in service until a new fireboat for Elliott Bay is built and the fireboat Chief Seattle is refurbished to take the Alki's place at Fisherman's Terminal. Once that happens, the Alki will be retired.