Wesley Albini, 12, helps his dad and Bodega Fire Chief Ron Albini in filling a gas line trench, Saturday Sept. 18, 2010 at the new Bodega Fire station. In the background is volunteer firefighter Josh Perucchi. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2010

Bodega residents work together to build a firehouse

In a display of community pride reminiscent of an old-fashioned barn raising, volunteers in the tiny town of Bodega are bringing their tools just about every weekend to help build a new firehouse.

The rural fire department doesn't have nearly enough money to pay for a building that could cost about $1.7 million with professional contractors.

Instead, the community is taking pledges, holding fundraising barbecues and turning out on weekends.

"Fundraisers and donations," Fire Chief Ron Albini said. "We have no tax base."

The community support should be no surprise, said Kelly Brady, owner of Brew coffee shop.

"This is a great community, it is one of the reasons I ended up here," Brady said. "It is one big, grand family. I don't think I have ever seen anything like it."

The new station has become a focal point for the town of 1,000, which relies on a volunteer department that covers ranches, dairies and farms for miles around.

"We are proud of it, we are proud of our firefighters," said Sarah Molicka, manager of Northern Light Surf Shop and a Bodega native.

The Bodega Volunteer Fire Department has 15 volunteer firefighters and responds to about 150 calls a year, ranging from grass to structure fires.

It is now housed in the 650-square-foot McCaughey Hall, a building donated to the fire department by the late Howard McCaughey, who owned the general store across the street.

The fire department building, built in 1955, also doubles as the town's community hall.

It has room for two of the department's pieces of equipment, with a third stored in a barn a half mile away.

"It has always been the community hall and the fire department will continue to own it and it will be our community hall," Albini said.

The new station is expected to cost $1.1 million.

Albini said the hope is the new fire station will be far enough along by the end of the year to huose the department's three trucks.

"The real important thing is it will allow us to park the equipment in one place," he said. "Now we have equipment scattered and everyone has to carry their gear with them."

The steel building from Soule Building Systems of Cotati was erected in early July with an Old West facade on the front that matches the adjacent Post Office building.

Most of the work on the infrastructure and to finish the interior will be volunteer labor, said Bill Newman, who has acted as the department's fundraiser and who dealt with some of the red tape with local, state and federal regulators.

"A lot of local people here are contractors and that has helped us out," Newman said. "They called in favors. If we had to bid this building out, it would have cost us $1.7 million."

The building will have 4,100 square feet, enough room for the trucks, an office, a day-use room, showers, kitchen, workshop and dorm room.

"It will be the first time we will be able to do a repair on a fire truck in the winter without getting wet or working in a cramped area," Albini said.

The department has raised $400,000 with seven annual fundraisers and donations of $50 it asks from each household within its 16-square-mile service area.

The next fundraiser is an Oct. 9 polenta feed, and the department also has sold 110 memorial bricks at $250 each.

It also has a $500,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Newman said the department is still $250,000 short of the funds needed to complete the building. With volunteers doing sheetrock work inside the building, the department hopes to move in before the end of the year.

The department has received a separate $100,000 federal grant to build a 35,000-gallon water tank that will be filled by rainwater from the station's roof.

The water will be used to fill the department's water tender and for a hydrant that will be in front of the station.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette