AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Fire Department will temporarily move some firefighters into a Travis County office building while Fire Station 1 renovations continue.

Fire Station 1, located at Fifth and Trinity streets, closed Oct. 13 because of renovations and some construction complications. Crews were moved to other stations in the city.

Travis County commissioners approved an agreement to let AFD use space in the Ned Granger Building on 11th Street. The move will help with response times and keep firefighters in proximity to downtown Austin, Fire Chief Joel Baker told county commissioners Tuesday.

Firefighters will move into the 11th Street space in one to two weeks, Baker said. About 15-20 people will be using the space at any given time, including some medic units.

The space is on the first floor and about 7,200 square feet in size with a full kitchen. Baker said they are still determining where the firetrucks will be kept. 

The agreement will last six months while renovations are underway. There is also a two-month extension option, county officials said.

The agreement has no cost to AFD, but the city will have to pay utilities, which are estimated at $7,000 for the six months of use.

A county official said AFD reached out to the county requesting downtown space. Commissioner Brigid Shea said the county has more space in its downtown buildings thanks to its remote work policy

Construction complications

A spokesperson said Station 1 has been under renovation for several months with crews still operating out of the station. AFD said its plan was to keep crews in the main building while phase 1 construction in the annex was completed.

However, during phase 1 construction there were “electrical complications” that left the building without power in its main building. During Oct. 7-9, the contractor could not fix the failed systems, which “created several additional life safety obstacles that violated [City of Austin] Code.”

On Oct. 10, the fire marshal inspected the building and recommended the building be vacated until safety was ensured and electrical upgrades were established, AFD said.

Crews left the building by Oct. 13 at noon and relocated to other close stations. Engine 1 was moved to Station 51 on Highway 290. Engine 13 was moved to Station 6 on South Congress. Ladder 1 was moved to Station 32 on Montebello Road.

Since then, AFD has worked with the city, EMS, Travis County and the University of Texas to bring crews back to downtown. This includes working to use a trailer at the UT Gateway Apartments parking lot, but AFD said repairs are needed before crews can move in.

AFD said the two-phase project of the “historical building” is scheduled to finish in May 2024.

Response time concerns

Last week, Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks told KXAN the move created “a dangerous condition” because it removed units from downtown Austin.

An AFD spokesperson said with the closure, there are a few blocks in the immediate area of Station 1 that are over five minutes from a neighboring station. These blocks “are likely to see reduced response capability while Station 1’s crews are displaced.”

The fire department also said stations 2, 4, 6 and 7 can arrive at some of Station 1’s territory within a five-minute drive. The department’s goal is to arrive at 90% of incidents within 8 minutes.

Since crews left Station 1, AFD said the average response time was 10 minutes and 42 seconds for 90% of incidents — meeting its goal about 77% of the time. Before the station was vacated, the response time was 8 minutes and 46 seconds during 2023 — meeting the goal 84.6% of the time.