As one travels up California Route 1, it’s easy to miss the North Fire Station–one’s eyes are drawn to the now-famous chapel next to it. Because of its particularity and visibility, the chapel’s design and construction story are well-known. Its neighbor, the North Fire Station, is another example of the energy and community effort which have characterized TSR from its inception, and many talented and dedicated members helped make it possible. Its history is closely linked to that of the VFD, which begins with the earliest development of TSR.
Like the requirements for roads and utilities, provision for fire protection must be proposed by a developer in California. TSR’s developer, Oceanic, initially sketched out an ‘Industrial Fire Brigade’, and the Volunteer Fire Department (‘VFD’) was organized, with Oceanic’s encouragement, in 1973. The original fire station–the ‘Mendosoma FFS (Forest Fire Station)’–was way up Skaggs Springs Road, near what’s known now as Camp Liahona. This was ok to satisfy the county’s requirements, but when building started on TSR the need for something rather more convenient rapidly became clear. The VFD soon started working out of the ‘Old Firehouse’, rapidly built for the task, on Verdant View. It now houses the Sea Ranch Water Company, and the old sliding doors for the fire truck can still be seen on its west wall. Again, as TSR grew further, the need for a larger station and professional staffing became apparent. TSRA, with help from the Oceanic, arranged a contract with the CDF (California Division of Forestry, now rebaptized CAL FIRE) for such staffing. Oceanic also arranged for a land transfer to allow the construction of the fire station on Annapolis Road at Verdant View, referred to as the “South Station”. The design for the South Station was, by state requirement, produced by the Office of the State Architect, although TSRA’s Design Committee approved the plans. The South Fire Station is owned by CAL FIRE, and the CDF staff formerly at the Mendosoma FFS transferred there.
At about this time, Dan Levin arrived at the ranch. He went to a VFD training session, and was immediately signed up as a volunteer–and eventually became the first VFD chief, a position he held for over 30 years. He soon realized the need for a volunteer station that was not close to the main station, partly to spread risk, but also to be more convenient to the majority of the volunteers. In collaboration with CDF Fire Captain Richard Anderson, then the program manager for CDF’s Sea Ranch program, he led the push for a much-needed volunteer fire station, and, with Don Jacobs and Mike Ott, was responsible for the design of the North Fire Station. Oceanic agreed to donate the necessary land. There were two options for the funding of the station–first, to create an assessment district and impose a tax; or second, to encourage community participation via donations. The second option was chosen, and a vigorous fund-raising effort undertaken, with a forceful and effective direct mail solicitation, which raised $200,000–and TSRA chipped in $50,000.
At the time $250,000 was enough to get started, but significant help was needed from VFD volunteers, who performed a lot of grunt work, and from the subcontractors drafted by Matt Sylvia, the dean of TSR contractors at the time. The completion, after 2½ years of work, was celebrated with a big party, in 1986.
The North Fire Station has served us well–although not as eye-catching as the chapel, it’s a significant architectural landmark. Like all structures at TSR, it needs constant maintenance. The original siding was venerable, and needed replacing–but the funds from the county did not cover this. In 2009 and 2010 various projects were completed by the volunteers, including repainting the station interior and replacing the window blinds. The largest part of the project so far, the replacement of the weathered redwood siding, was completed in 2013. In subsequent years the septic system was improved, and the paving around the station was repaired and improved. Besides routine maintenance, plans are underway to finally complete the North Station by adding residential facilities to support 24×7 staffing as well as more space for training, administrative offices, and equipment storage.