The re-dedication ceremony for Fire Station 13 on July 20 featured firefighters, City Council President Scott Peters, retiree Catherine Miller and five-year-old Luke Furtek cutting the ribbon on the newly renovated station. It was a fitting image for a project that drew support from seemingly every corner of La Jolla.
Miller was honored by project architect Trip Bennett as the “first responder” to step forward with a donation after hearing about the drive to improve the facility, which was built as a temporary facility in 1976. Furtek dedicated his fifth birthday party to the project, telling guests to bring donations rather than gifts, and raised nearly $1,000. They and dozens of other La Jollans who helped make the project possible joined at the re-dedication in front of the station, which looked like a completely new building with its improved landscaping and new, arched entryway.
“When I drove up I had to make sure I was at the right place,” said Mayor Jerry Sanders, who spoke at the event along with Peters and San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Tracy Jarman.
Bennett and his La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club received more than $300,000 in donations from more than 210 individuals in La Jolla for a project that added 450 square feet to the facility in addition to improving the existing space. Fifty-two businesses contributed more than $160,000 in goods and services. The project created four individual bedrooms in a facility where men and women firefighters formerly shared bedrooms, separated only by curtains. It added a new living room, allowing the old one to be used as a dining area. The kitchen and bathrooms were renovated, and a new ADA-accessible bathroom was added, something the station formerly lacked. The captains at the station now have a separate office after working for years in the corner of the living room.
The exceeding generosity of local donors allowed for several extras to be added to the project as well, including flat-screen televisions in the living room and kitchen, a new barbecue out back and cushy TempurPedic mattresses for the bedrooms.
Bennett, who donated the architectural plans for the project and headed the fund-raising efforts, dedicated the day to the donors who made it possible.
“Three-hundred sixty-five days a year, you are our heroes,” he said to the firefighters. “Today, these are your heroes,” he said, gesturing to the crowd.
Very early in Bennett’s fund-raising efforts, an anonymous donor came to the front door at Fire Station 13 and offered to give $1 for every $2 raised. Bennett called the donor, who has since passed away, the foundation for the project.
“They left a legacy for community projects,” he said. “The sincerity of doing in anonymously ... This day is about people like our anonymous donors, who create these ripples in their life and they just kind of keep going.”
Fire Chief Jarman said, considering San Diego’s lean fiscal situation, the station probably would not have gotten any help without the generosity of local donors.
“I’m overjoyed and overwhelmed,” she said. “It’s been challenging, to say the least, in these fiscal times. I never thought we would be able to get the money to fix this station.”
Ron Nelson, an engineer stationed at Fire Station 13, called the results of the renovation “first-rate.” He said the improved facility would help firefighters do their job, “just by virtue of the increase in comfort and the quality of life.”
Firefighters lived and worked out of temporary trailers next to the station during the months of renovation, a situation that Nelson said was challenging. Without a working kitchen, firefighters resorted to fast food more often than they would have liked to, and office work was done in the often-sooty garage area. But the results, Nelson said, were worth it.
In addition to the anonymous donor, who contributed approximately $100,000, Dr. Oliver and Paula Jones were recognized as honorary “Fire Chiefs” for their donation of more than $50,000. GDC Construction, Smith Brothers Construction and Bennett and Associates were recognized as “Assistant Chiefs” for their donations of labor, materials and services worth more than $25,000. Jason and Lisa Khoury of Pacific Scene Homes, Las Patronas and Beacham Construction were recognized as “Deputy Chiefs” for contributing more than $15,000.
Bennett dedicated the work done by the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary to Jack Morse, a Rotary member and longtime La Jollan who was rescued from a fire in his home by Fire Station 13 firefighters, but later succumbed to his injuries.