A crowd of about 100 community well-wishers, as well as firefighters past and present, gathered in the wide engine bay of the brand new LA County Fire Station 71 in Point Dume Friday morning to christen the new station, which is the culmination of years of planning and over a year of demolition and construction.
“The old fire station—I grew up here, so I’m sad to see it go, but—this place is, this is amazing,” Mayor Skylar Peak said, gesturing to the tall ceiling of the engine bay.
The old Station 71, built almost 75 years ago, once stood on the same stretch of land but was not large enough to house modern fire engines.
“Before, we didn’t have gates or security. Our engines were just out,” said Capt. Steve Ralston. “Nobody stole anything, which was lucky.”
While the station was rebuilt over the past year, Station 71 has been operating out of a temporary location, mostly made up of tents on Zuma Beach, a few miles west of the permanent location.
Having a roof over the engines is just one of many improvements lauded by firefighters at the station, who cited several upgrades, including a huge modern kitchen and living area, individual dorm rooms for privacy, and separate male and female showers.
“The best improvement is the living conditions,” said Ralston, who added, “we didn’t ask for much, but they gave us plenty.”
Another fireman said, “Everybody would always ask where the fire station was … it was just a little shack.”
According to Ralston, the odd kitchen setup would raise eyebrows, especially when groups like elementary school students would come to visit.
“The refrigerator used to be in the bathroom,” Ralston said, “and the kids would always want to know why.”
That’s no longer an issue, with a huge new kitchen and dining area where firefighters can “show off their culinary skills.”
The new station is by all accounts an improvement, from the new bi-fold doors, which are longer-lasting than garage-style doors, to the tile mosaic of the Malibu coast that winds along the front of the building.
“It fits in with the Malibu theme,” said Ralston.
The tile mural, which was commissioned by the LA County Board of Supervisors, was created by Matt Doolin, a collaborator in Topanga Art Tiles. According to the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the mural, “Tapestry of Dreams,” was “inspired by the tile Persian rug located in the foyer of the nearby Adamson House.”
Besides Peak, City Council members Lou La Monte and John Sibert were in attendance, as well as Assemblymember Richard Bloom and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
Yaroslavsky praised the LA County Fire Department for almost 20 minutes during Friday’s dedication, on behalf of himself and all LA County officials.
“There are no political differences on this issue: the profound admiration we have for the courage [that] the men and women in this department show, day in and day out,” Yaroslavsky said, adding, “the County Fire Department is so versatile and so well equipped—not just in equipment, but well-equipped in the gut—to do the types of things that need to be done to save life and property.”
He went on to speak about the new facility.
“This place, for many years, left a lot to be desired, and one of the things the Fire Department and I worked on was to get Fire Station 71 to a level that is commensurate with the service that is provided by the men and women who work and live in this station,” Yaroslavsky said. “I’m glad that the department managed to get that done.”
Yaroslavsky’s 20-year term as Third District supervisor ends on Dec. 1.