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Safety Concerns Force County to Restrict Use of Newcastle Fire Station

October 30, 2012

Placer County moved today to place additional restrictions on the use of the Newcastle Fire Station until the Newcastle Fire Protection District resolves ongoing questions about the safety of the building.

The new restrictions allow brief entry into the fire station at 9211 Cypress St. in Newcastle so the district can remove equipment and other property from the building, but do not permit ongoing storage and retrieval of equipment or other continued use of the building.

“We had no choice but to take this action, because public safety is and must be our top priority,” said Timothy Wegner, the County’s Chief Building Official. “We will continue to work closely with district officials, and encourage them to move expeditiously to document the full extent of the damage and any necessary repairs.”

A structural evaluation of the building is needed for the District’s Board to evaluate the extent of the damage, any necessary repairs, and the future use of the building.

The Placer County Building Services Division posted yellow restricted-use placards around the building today to notify the district and public that only brief entry is allowed to remove equipment and other contents.

The restrictions will be lifted as soon as the district either:

  • Corrects all outstanding safety violations, or
  • Provides documentation showing that a design professional registered in California has completed an assessment of the building and determined it is safe to occupy.

The building is a two-story structure with unreinforced masonry walls that has been owned by the fire district since about 1925.

In 2005, an engine bay in the fire station was damaged and Code Enforcement did an initial inspection after receiving a third-party complaint, finding Building Code violations that the district was ordered to correct. Placer County issued a building permit to the district for the needed repairs and temporary shoring was installed. The permit, however, expired in 2007 without repairs being completed.

After a new complaint in 2011, Placer County requested an evaluation be conducted and restricted use of the building by precluding public use of the facility and prohibiting firefighters from occupying the building overnight.

On Sept. 5, 2012 Placer County’s final notice asked the district to provide a structural evaluation of the damaged area to determine whether the fire station is safe. The district was given 14 days to provide the requested structural evaluation.

Chief Building Official Wegner noted that the district hired two separate structural engineers to look at the building, but emphasized that Sept. 24 and Oct. 24 reports from the structural engineers do not provide the county with an evaluation of the structural integrity of the damaged area.

Wegner explained his office’s decision to further restrict use of the fire station in an Oct. 29 letter to the district. In the letter, he noted that his office still does not know the extent of damage to the building’s southern wall even though the county has requested a full evaluation of the damaged area.

“The full evaluation of the damaged area of the building is to ensure the safety of the public and building occupants,” he explained.