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Annapolis fire department gets new base

After years of making do with temporary quarters, volunteer firefighters who serve the small community of Annapolis in northwestern Sonoma County are set to get a permanent home.

That means access to amenities including electricity, safe storage for equipment and a training base that they've done without for a long time.

The new facility is to be built on open land at the Sonoma County equipment yard off Annapolis Road. The $555,000 project was given the go-ahead last week by the county Board of Supervisors.

"It's been a long time coming," said Sonoma County Fire Chief Mark Aston, who oversees the Annapolis department and 14 other volunteer departments across the county.

Construction of the prefabricated metal building is set to begin this summer and wrap up next year, allowing move-in by fall or winter. The basic station will not have living quarters and will make use of a portable restroom building outside.

Still, firefighters hope the new site will mean a boost in visibility and support for the small company, which currently tops out at six volunteers. They serve a population of more than 400 people, including the town of Annapolis and homes scattered over 127 square miles of rugged coastal hills.

"As of now, no one really knows we have a station," said Annapolis Fire Chief Dagan Holmes. The current headquarters is on the Starcross monastery property about a mile up the road from the new site. It consists of a old blacksmith's shop and an aluminium-sided barn, both with dirt floors.

Rodents are a problem, presenting health and safety risks for firefighters and making gear storage in big plastic tubs a necessity. Other equipment is sent home with volunteers, presenting problems with gear management.

The new facility will have four bays to accommodate the department's engine and water tender and other equipment, as well as concrete floors and secure gear lockers to keep critters out.

Training sessions now held miles away at Cal Fire's Sea Ranch headquarters will be returned to home ground.

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