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NEWPORT BEACH : Doctor May Be In at Old Fire Station

After more than six decades of duty, the historic Balboa Fire Station might live out its useful life as a doctor’s office.

An orthopedic surgeon who lives on Balboa Island last week offered the city $400,000 for the 62-year-old station, said City Manager Kevin J. Murphy.

Though the tiny station at 323 Marine Ave. in Balboa’s business district is still operational, workers have begun construction of a new $660,000 fire station a couple blocks away. It should be finished by next summer.

In the meantime, the city accepted the all-cash offer from Dr. Edwin Hendrickson and gave him 30 days to obtain a cost estimate for bringing the 1931 building into earthquake code compliance, Murphy said. If the conversion to an office is too expensive, Hendrickson, who has paid a $10,000 deposit, can back out of the deal, officials said.

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The Depression-era station was built to hold a 1926 American/La France model fire engine and one police car. The Early-California architecture and tile roof have remained intact and look pretty much the same today as during the 1930s.

One of the problems for continued use of the station by the department was the change in firefighting equipment. The fire engine housed there originally had sprockets on each wheel axle and was chain-driven, said Fire Chief Timothy D. Riley. The small engine could pump out 75 gallons of water per minute. By contrast, today’s bulkier, more powerful fire engines can pump 1,500 gallons of water per minute and barely fit in the station’s garage.

Riley said the original fire engine was replaced in the 1940s and is owned by a man in Oregon, who has restored and uses it in parades and car shows.

“I would like to get the vehicle back,” Riley said, who has a model of a similar, 1927 fire engine in his office. The city has approached the Oregon man with offers to buy back the engine, but his price was too high, said Riley.

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