After 70 years of service, Fire Station 3 at Rinconada Park in Palo Alto was reduced to rubble Tuesday morning.
Well before council members and City Manager James Keene sank their ceremonial shovels into the soil in front of the Embarcadero Road station, cranes had begun their work in the back of the small station for the 6,663-square-foot project.
Much of the one-story building had been reduced to debris by the time Mayor Liz Kniss made her welcoming remarks to a few dozen dignitaries, residents, contractors and firefighters at a sunny ceremony.
"We're going to have an up-to-date fire station with art, with a water station, with bike licensing," Kniss told the assembled crowd. "This will be your all-purpose fire station."
Over the next year, crews will replace the 1948 station at 799 Embarcadero Road with one that is larger, more seismically sound and more functional. Fire Chief Eric Nickel noted that when the city had built Station 3, the fire department consisted of 23 people with a limited mission: fighting fires.
Since then, the mission of the department has changed. So have its needs, Nickel said.
"As the community has grown, as the community's needs have grown, we have become an all-risk organization," Nickel said. "We respond to many things other than fire."
As a result, department has outgrown the 1948 station that was 3,454 square feet, which according to Kniss had cost the city $50,000 at the time.
The station was also one of the projects identified as a top priority in a 2011 report from a specially appointed infrastructure committee. The report found that the station "lacks sufficient space for modern equipment and does not meet current seismic standards." The report also noted that both the Rinconada station and the one at Mitchell Park "lack sufficient space for emergency supplies, lack safe separation of living quarters from the fumes of engines and hazardous materials, and can barely hold the two engines located as each of those vital pieces of equipment have grown in size and capacity over the years."
Nickel noted that some of the engines the department uses today cannot fit in the Rinconada station along with an ambulance.
The council approved in November a $5.9 million contract with Strawn Construction to replace the Rinconada fire station. In his opening comments, City Manager James Keene said he was pleased to see that the demolition -- initially planned for Wednesday -- had already begun.
"I'm so glad to see you're ahead of the schedule already!" Keene said.