La Honda Fire Brigade station

The La Honda Fire Brigade station on Highway 84 is due for a second story in the coming months. Photo courtesy San Mateo County

For residents of the South Coast, fire departments are especially important as first responders to emergencies in the rural areas of the Coastside where other help can be miles away. The La Honda Fire Brigade, a volunteer-run department, is planning to capitalize on that community support by upgrading its facilities for the first time in more than 20 years.

The department’s Station 57 on Highway 84 is planning on adding a second story to part of the building and renovating its offices and bathrooms to make them ADA compliant. The department has issued a request for a proposal with an estimated cost of $350,000. The work is expected to be done by late spring or early summer next year.

Assistant Fire Chief Ari Delay, who is the fire chief for the city of San Bruno, noted La Honda’s volunteer firefighters first formed in 1953, and crews have “crawled around on hands and knees” in the attic used for storage. Delay noted the renovation will also allow the department to install new fire sprinklers throughout the building.

“Our role has expanded over the years,” said Delay, now going on 31 years with the department. “We run between 350 and 400 calls a year now. There’s just a need for more room, and space for firefighters to train and have storage and office space.”

The renovation is possible through ongoing community support and collaboration with San Mateo County officials. Delay said Supervisor Don Horsley was “instrumental” in securing funds. But at the local level, the brigade raised thousands of dollars through fundraising campaigns and donations.

Delay noted that because there is limited government representation in the South Coast, it often falls on local firefighters to communicate with residents during emergencies. During public safety shutoffs, the department opened its operation center for people to charge phones and make calls for emergencies.

“We host other fundraisers, and some of them don’t bring in a whole lot of money,” Delay said. “But it’s more about being a community and giving that sense of community back to the citizens we serve.”

August Howell is a staff writer for the Review covering city government and public safety. Previously, he was the Review’s community, arts and sports reporter. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon.

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