By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Graton’s all-volunteer fire department has moved into its new, $3.5 million station, a project that took 30 years and is occurring on the department’s 60th anniversary.
“It is a huge accomplishment for the district to get this completed, to provide a place for all fire engines to be inside, a place for firefighters to hang out, and it doesn’t leak,” said Bill Bullard, deputy chief for the Graton Volunteer Fire Department.
At 14,000 square feet, the station has room for the department’s equipment, a training tower, classroom, dorm rooms, a gym, day-room with overstuffed chairs and a 60-inch TV, kitchen, offices and a report-writing room for sheriff’s deputies.
It replaces a 1940s former train depot, complete with knotty pine walls, used as the station since the fire department was formed in 1951. That station was three times smaller and required parking one engine in an outside canvas carport and another at a nearby house.
The new one “was designed to serve the needs of the community for 75 years,” Bullard said.
The fire district has been planning and saving for the new station for 30 years, with some controversy along the way over the use of a World War II-era air raid siren to call volunteers during emergencies.
Fire officials contend the siren, now repainted and prominently displayed on the roof, is the only sure way to call the 30 volunteers to fire calls because there are pockets in the west county where pagers and cellphones do not receive signals.
In a compromise approved by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, the siren can be used at noon, during the daytime for emergencies and at night only in the case of fires or major accidents.
Since the station opened on July 23, the siren has been used seven times, none at night, Bullard said.
The new station is on Gravenstein Highway between Graton and Green Valley roads, in the middle of the 27 square miles the department serves.
It was designed by Santa Rosa architect Richard Burton and built by Wright Construction of Santa Rosa.
It is situated on the 9.2-acre Davis Tree Farm, bought by the district in 2006 for $1.25 million.
The district, which has no paid employees, receives its funding from property taxes and has a $600,000 annual budget.