Posted on Mon, Aug. 09, 2004

Fire station going up
Volunteer effort in Palo Colorado

Herald Staff Writer

Something like an old-time barn raising will take place in Palo Colorado Canyon this month as the bare bones of a new fire station go up in the rural community on the Big Sur coast.

The project comes after 20 years of fund-raising efforts by the Mid-Coast Fire Brigade to get a station to house the all-volunteer department's three engines and provide an office and training space.

"We need it," said architect Rob Carver, who served as a firefighter with the brigade for eight years. "The biggest threat down there is fire."

His firm, Carver & Schicketanz Architects of Carmel, solicited donation of the 1.1-acre site for the station from a client, Carver said.

He and his partners donated the time to subdivide the property, prepare plans and drawings, and obtain permits for the station at 38800 Palo Colorado Canyon Road at the top of Murray Grade, roughly 2.5 miles up the canyon from Highway 1.

The county building permit was issued Thursday and contractors hope to pour a foundation next week, said contractor Charles McClaskey.

His firm, Canyon Builders, will frame the station for cost, he said, and other work, including excavation and foundation preparation have been donated or done at cost by Blaze Engineering of Big Sur, contractor Norm Cotton, and Krunlund Co. of Big Sur.

"Building codes for fire stations are very strict," McClaskey said, and working in the remote canyon drives up costs.

"We're more isolated than Big Sur. There are no businesses. Once you're there, you don't forget a loaf of bread."

Years of fund-raising efforts have amassed $300,000 toward the station, he said, but the eventual cost, even with donated time and materials, will run about $700,000.

Building, labor and material costs have been going up faster than the 300-odd householders of Palo Colorado have been able to collect money, McClaskey said.

"We've been going backward," he said. "It's now or never."

The department's five fire engines are left out in the rain all winter without a station and "we need to get them indoors to make sure they'll start," he said.

"We have to get the building up in the air, even if it's an empty shell for a few years," McClaskey said.

The initial surge of building will result in four walls, a floor and a tarp roof, enough to shelter the engines, he said. Further work will have to wait for further funding.

Eventually the two-story, 3,270-square-foot building will include three truck bays, a training room, offices and an apartment for firefighters.

The volunteers are pursuing grants and plan a fund-raising barbecue this summer, McClaskey said, and will accept any donations to help the project along.

The department has six volunteers, including Fire Chief Cheryl Goetz, an engineer with the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Keeping the small department going "has been a struggle for these guys," Goetz said.

The brigade gets $23,000 a year in state Proposition 172 funds, "our operating budget for the entire year."

About $15,000 of that goes for insurance and workers compensation coverage, she said, leaving another $8,000 or so for fuel, maintenance, equipment purchases and other operating costs.

"Everything is 100 percent donations down there," she said.

In addition to housing equipment and providing a training site, a fire station will also serve as a central gathering place in case of disaster for residents to get information and assistance, she said.

Tax-deductible donations may be sent to: Mid-Coast Fire Brigade, Palo Colorado Canyon, 93923, with checks made out to Mid-Coast Fire Brigade.

Kevin Howe can be reached at 646-4416 or

2004 Monterey County Herald and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.