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La Jollan pumped up to support Fire Station 9

Raising money to make La Jolla’s Fire Station 9 a better place to work is more than a personal mission for Sally Ricchiuti — it’s for the community, the native La Jollan said.

And on March 6, the campaign will take an active turn toward a goal of $500,000 to turn the dilapidated, 1960s-era station at the base of the La Jolla Parkway into a place that “our heroes” will find a happier home away from home, said the mother of three.

That’s the day she and the station’s firefighters will start offering twice-monthly tours to show what needs to be done — and it’s only the beginning, she added last week.

Her campaign, Give In Kind to Station 9, is being modeled on the successful 2007 effort, spearheaded by architect Trip Bennett and La Jolla Sunrise Rotary to rehab Bird Rock Station 13. Bennett is mentoring Ricchiuti, with tips about how to work with the city and with contractors and just all-around guidance.

She’s also getting help from another La Jolla native, Don Dewhurst, who said he plans to enlist the Rotary Club of La Jolla. His firm, Dewhurst & Associates, also pitched in on the Station 13 project.

Bennett, who said they raised about $700,000 in cash and in-kind contributions for the 18-month-long project, came during much better economic times.

“These stations that need repair are way down on the (city’s) list,” he said. “I hope the community acknowledges Sally’s efforts.”

Recognizing that “a lot of people are frustrated with the city,” he said his experience showed “how the community comes together. ... Most people get that there’s a need.”

People who take the tours will get to see what’s needed, Ricchiuti said.

Those assigned to Station 9 — men and women —share barrackslike quarters with bunks and twin beds separated only by blue curtains and a recreation area with a TV, some exercise equipment and a few chairs, Dewhurst said.

In addition to new beds and recreation equipment, money raised would be used to replace the bathrooms and kitchen, add an Internet station and basics such as carpeting and paint, and to redo the landscaping and just give the station at La Jolla’s busiest intersection an overall updating.

“These firefighters don’t complain or moan,” Ricchiuti said.

“They accept it as the way it is. ... It needs some love — a lot of love.”

In addition to being the community’s busiest station and one of only two in the city where emergency medical technicians are trained, it’s also set up as a station where mass casualty and disaster relief supplies are housed.

Ricchiuti first saw Station 9 after the 2007 Witch Creek fire. Driving by with pictures and goodies that her children, now 5, 7 and 11, had been making as part of her effort “to teach about the sacrifices our firefighters make every day,” she decided to stop there instead of at her neighborhood Station 13.

Capt. Kevin McWalters welcomed her and showed her the facility.

“For some reason, I looked around and decided to do this,” Ricchiuti said.

Her efforts didn’t begin right away because she was recovering from a severely broken leg.

Through her first fundraiser and early efforts, the fund holds $59,000. But to accomplish her goal, Ricchiuti has to go bigger. In addition to the station tours, she said, she is planning a series of receptions to show more people what’s needed, and then will host a “soiree” as the major fundraiser.

She’s also hoping that they’ll have the good luck that Bennett and the Station 13 drive had: An anonymous donor stepped up early and contributed $150,000.

Contributions must be sent to the city, which she said she has been assured will be designated for the Station 9 upgrades.

For details or to donate, go to www.kindtonine.org.

Visit Station 9

  • Tours 2 to 4 p.m. the first and third Saturdays of each month, through May