County may sue over flaw at firehouse


Fire Station 22 was too old and small to hold all of the emergency equipment Clark County firefighters needed.

That included a long ladder truck with a 100-foot extension used to rescue people high above the ground and fight fires in tall buildings.

So in 2008, county commissioners voted to build a multimillion-dollar fire station next door that is three times bigger and capable of housing the big rig, a paramedic fire engine and a rescue unit.

The new station opened last year, but there was a problem.

There wasn't enough space behind the building for the ladder truck to turn into the station. Instead, firefighters have to back it into the front of the building, which means shutting down West Flamingo Road, one of the busiest roads in the valley.

Today , commissioners will consider suing Blakely Johnson and Ghusn Inc. - the Reno-based architectural firm they paid $577,650 to draw up the fire station plans - to recover damages for the flawed design as the county plans to redesign and modify the existing structure.

It is unclear how much money was spent to build the new fire station. County property and Fire Department officials were unavailable for comment Monday.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak, whose district includes the fire station, said the company was "paid to do it right, and clearly it was not done correctly."

"The truck can't get into it? That's ridiculous," Sisolak said. "So now what is the plan to fix this thing and compensate the taxpayers accordingly?"

The station, near Rainbow Boulevard, serves the area bounded by Sahara Avenue, Decatur Boulevard, Buffalo Drive and Hacienda Avenue. Crews responded to about 7,700 emergency calls in 2010. The ladder truck was used on those calls.

The potential legal action would include a subcontracted engineer who provided the incorrect turning radius information, according to the commission agenda item.

In September 2008, county officials asked the architect whether the largest truck could make the turn into the bay and were assured "there was ample room." In March 2011, when construction was 95 percent complete, a test drive of the fire apparatus failed, requiring several adjustments to enter the rear of the bay.

George Ghusn, president of the architectural firm, said a set of criteria that took into consideration how the truck's wheels turn and the space needed for its front bumper to pull into the bay was used for the project as it had been for three other county fire stations the company had previously worked on.

The project's architect no longer works with the company because of downsizing, he added.

"Nobody really realized it was a problem because it had always worked in the other stations," Ghusn said. "There was a level of comfort that developed with that criteria because it always worked in the past."

The difference is those three other stations had a bit more turning room. The company has drawn plans to make two of the station's bay doors into one giant door, but even then, "it will still be challenging to get a fire truck into the building," Ghusn said.

"It's one thing to have trouble driving vehicles into the station, but you don't want them to have trouble leaving the station, which they don't. That's the important part."

Firefighters would have to put the vehicles "in the right order," he added. The ladder truck is first, so it would have enough space to swing into the bay. The smaller vehicles, a battalion chief truck and an ambulance, can fit next to it, he said.

As for the potential legal action, Ghusn said he is confused about the timing.

"They could have done this a year ago," Ghusn said. "If you tell me you're going to sue me, I'm not going to give you a final design. There's no question the problem is real, but this solution will improve it. Legal actions don't get it done."

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

 

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