Last month’s earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska left the city of Kodiak’s fire station shaken and cracked. It’s also stimulated the efforts to replace the building.
Chief Jim Mullican is standing outside Kodiak’s fire station counting the cracks in one of its walls that were left behind by January’s 7.9 magnitude earthquake.
“You got one there. Here’s two. Here’s three. Here’s four, five, six,” Mullican listed.
According to the Alaska Earthquake Center, that earthquake is considered one of the strongest recorded in the last 150 years in Alaska. And it left Kodiak’s firehouse worse for the ware.
“Nine and this spiders out,” Mullican said.
A lot of the cracks run up the walls and cut all the way through them.
“Step cracks right here, that’s 11. Diagonal crack, that’s 12. I believe there’s another one that’s twelve brand new cracks,” Mullican said.
On the wall Mullican is inspecting, the small lines don’t look like much, but he says they’re serious. The damage spans the whole building and even though the station’s considered stable, he’s still worried.
“I have these cracks that are through the wall, what happens when that next little 4.2, 5.0 earthquake what’s that going to do to this already compromised station,” Mullican said.
Not only is the safety of his firefighters on his mind, but another shake could potentially break the station’s garage doors and trap Kodiak’s fire engines and ambulances. But Mullican says he’s got a plan for if that happens.
“Basically, it involves pulling out our saws and cutting these doors open to get the rigs out if it gets to that point,” Mullican said.
The structural damage isn’t the only problem facing the firehouse. It’s old. The newest section of the building was built in the 1970s. So, Kodiak already a needed a new station before the quake.
“It’s to the point where, truly, we need to tear it down and build a new one,” Mullican said.
To make matters worse, the building’s located in Kodiak’s tsunami inundation zone. When January’s earthquake shook the Gulf of Alaska it also caused a tsunami warning to be issued to many coastal communities including Kodiak.
A huge wave never appeared, but after the scare, Kodiak’s Mayor Pat Branson was called before the U.S. Senate committee on energy and natural resources to talk about the ordeal. In her testimony, she made it clear that replacing Kodiak’s fire station is vital.
“One essential need and safety priority is our fire station. along with protecting the city of Kodiak,” Branson said. “The Kodiak fire department provides all emergency medical services and transports on the Kodiak road system.”
Building a new firehouse will be expensive. It’s estimated the project will cost around $15 million. While in Washington, Mayor Branson spoke with Alaska’s U.S. Senators and its Representative about Kodiak’s need for a new station and where to get funding for the project. Nothings come from those conversations yet, but Mayor Branson says she’s optimistic.
Chief Mullican says something needs to be done soon because Kodiak will get hit by another earthquake at some point
“It’s not if, it’s when because we live in the Pacific Ring of Fire. We’re going to have earthquakes,” Mullican said.
Right now, Mayor Branson says the city is figuring out where the new firehouse can be built where a future tsunami won’t touch it. Once that’s done the city can move on to the next step in the process of replacing the station.