Looking at the new Wolf Trap Fire Station on Route 7, it appears that it could begin dispatching ambulances and fire trucks in a matter of weeks or months.
However, due to the county’s tight budget picture for fiscal 2014, Station 42 will likely not be staffed for emergency operations until January 2015, about a year later than originally planned.
“It was just a calculated decision that had to be made to balance the budget,” said Deputy County Executive David Rohrer.
Opening the new station will cost about $4.2 million, including equipment and 29 additional staff positions, Rohrer said. Most of the large equipment has already been purchased and is in use at other stations now, he said.
In consultation with the fire chief, Rohrer and County Executive Ed Long ultimately decided that the service needs are not so urgent that the station must open immediately.
The area that the Wolf Trap station will serve is currently covered by three other stations: North Point Fire Station 39 in Reston, Great Falls Fire Station 12 and the Tysons Corner Station 29 on Spring Hill Road.
Those stations are able to meet current needs, Rohrer said, but after the Silver Line opens at the end of this year and Tysons Corner begins redeveloping, the demands on the already busy Tysons Corner station are expected to increase. The slow economic recovery has also held back some of the expected growth in the area that Wolf Trap will serve, buying the county a bit of time, he said.
“We recognize that the need is coming,” he said. “29 [Tysons Corner] is a busy station. Wolf Trap will take some of the load off of them going forward.”
The Wolf Trap Station is also intended to house an additional water tanker and other equipment needed to fight fires in the portions of Great Falls that aren’t served by municipal water and therefore do not have fire hydrants. Currently, that need is being covered with a tanker positioned at the North Point Station.
Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) said he does not intend to ask for a budget amendment to begin service at Wolf Trap earlier. With no additional money available, starting service now would mean cuts elsewhere in the budget, he said.
“I am not happy with the idea, but I understand the restraints we are working under,” he said.
The building will not sit empty while it is awaiting staffing, Rohrer said. The Fire and Rescue Department intends to use the space for classroom training for personnel located on that side of the county, keeping them closer to their base stations than if they had to go to the training academy on West Ox Road in Fairfax.
The plan for staffing the new fire station will not be official until the Board of Supervisors approves the budget in the spring.
For the first time, the county is working on a two-year budget that demonstrates how fiscal 2014 spending levels will affect fiscal 2015. The final spending plan for fiscal 2015, which is anticipated to include staffing for the Wolf Trap Fire Station, won’t be adopted until next year.