AUGUSTA — Hartford Fire Station, the city’s Fire Department headquarters, is closed amid a major renovation of and addition to the historic building.

Access to the station is blocked because of excavation work taking place around it, including in front of the garage bays where firetrucks and ambulances usually are stored.

While the work is taking place, Hartford is closed to the public, a closure that wasn’t part of initial renovation plan. City firefighters and ambulance crews will stand ready at the three other staffed stations — on Bangor Street, Western Avenue and the relatively recently built North Station on Leighton Road.

When the work in front of the existing Hartford building began last week, the emergency vehicles and firefighter-paramedics normally stationed there were moved to the city’s other three stations.

Fire Chief Roger Audette said a plan is in place to ensure public safety is not compromised during the station’s closure and response times are not expected to be slower because of the change. Response times to various parts of the city could be slower or faster, depending on where each incident occurs, Audette said. That’s because some of the other stations where firefighters are repositioned now could be closer to, or farther from, an incident site.

“The construction project is really taking over the site, so there is no humanly way possible for us to respond out of here,” Audette said of Hartford Station. “The good news is we have plenty of other stations to respond from, covering calls while we’re under construction here.”

The Fire Department’s headquarters building probably won’t be reoccupied until the construction project is done, which Audette said is expected to be in December or January.

The closure was not part of the original plan to renovate and expand the station. Audette said the original plan was to construct the new addition to the station and move into that when it was complete. Contractors then were expected to move over to complete renovation of the older section of the building.

However, Audette said difficulties in construction and a desire to keep work moving without delay prompted the change in plans and the decision to close Hartford to allow contractors to move over to work on the older station while work on the newer section continues.

“We were going to stay here (in the old part of the station) and then move into the new section, but too many things have come up, unforeseen, and we need to keep the project moving,” Audette said. “We’re trying to be flexible and keep the contractor on task and on schedule. By creating some flexibility, we can keep these people here working and not lose time.”

He said challenges with the construction project have included excavation work made more difficult, and time-consuming, by trolley tracks and old sidewalk materials discovered underground.

Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, said people who need a fire permit while Hartford is closed may get one at any of the three other staffed fire stations.

Residents approved borrowing up to $6 million to expand and renovate Hartford in November 2016.

The work will add a large new section to the existing 1920 station, big enough to accommodate today’s firetrucks, which are far heavier and larger than the trucks the original station was designed to accommodate.

The work will more than double the size of the station, which stands prominently on Rines Hill looking down on the city’s downtown. It will have two large drive-through bays for firetrucks as well as rear-facing bays for ambulances and other vehicles and equipment. It also is expected to solve structural problems in the building’s old section and provide much more space for training, as well as modern sleeping quarters for firefigher-paramedics, who work around the clock.

In a recent memo to councilors, City Manager William Bridgeo said some adjustments to the project are being considered in order to try to keep it on schedule and within the allocated project budget. They include replacing a planned full stair tower extension on the Water Street side of the building with a wrought iron fire escape, saving about $86,000, and holding off on installation of a new emergency generator, saving $61,000, until the building is back in operation.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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