Newcastle Fire Board to meet on potential “yellow tag”

Walkthrough of firehouse occurred last week
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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A structural engineer's report on the Newcastle firehouse has spurred an emergency meeting of the fire protection district board of directors.

Last Thursday, Norman Scheel, of Norman Scheel Structural Engineers in Fair Oaks, toured the 90-year-old Newcastle firehouse. A two-page report by Scheel after the walkthrough was released and Placer County officials are reviewing it to determine whether or not to further restrict access to the building.

The report spurred immediate concern by fire board members despite the fact that the county has yet to make a decision on it.

"The situation is dire," said Yvonne Lewis, chairwoman of the board of directors.

But on Wednesday the county's chief building official said he was still "digesting" the information.

The walkthrough and report are both in response to a final notice dated Sept. 5 sent by the Placer County Community Development and Resource Agency's Chief Building Official Tim Wegner.

The final notice required the Newcastle Fire Protection District to obtain the services of a licensed engineer to analyze the fire department building within 14 days of the letter being sent.

Scheel's report states that Board Member David Poore, Capt. Chris Oliver, Battalion Chief Jay Love and residents Gary Fay and Richard Molzahn all went through the building with Scheel.

In a summary of the report, Scheel concludes that there needs to be a determination of "the portion of the building that is deemed dangerous so steps can be taken to evaluate that portion and repairs designed."

The rest of the report describes the interior of the Newcastle firehouse, which is currently only closed to the public and firefighters cannot be inside at night. Scheel observed the support system of the second floor of the building, as well as the outside, including the temporary shoring that has been in place since 2005.

On Tuesday, Lewis and Poore met with Wegner, according to Poore who indicated that talk of "yellow tagging" the building occurred. On Wednesday Wegner said he is still "digesting" the report from Scheel and that he will send out a notice to the fire protection district concerning it potentially as soon as next week.

"These can be stressful situations, but the county didn't take a hard and fast position on this yesterday," Wegner said on Wednesday. "I'm not in a position to do that."

Wegner also said a yellow tag is an option for the building's future. A yellow tag would allow firefighters to enter the building once to gather equipment, but after that no further entry would be permitted.

"We are preliminarily looking at the findings to see if that is appropriate and I need to catch up on that," Wegner said. "The county has not provided a written response yet."

Poore and Lewis both said actions are currently being taken to find temporary housing for the Newcastle firefighters, though neither could name specific details on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"We're trying our damndest. We're going to do what we can and trying to find a place; we're working at that as we speak," Lewis said on Tuesday.

Poore said he wanted to make it clear that no matter what action is taken by the county; Newcastle will not go without fire protection services. A piece of property in Newcastle owned by Elliot Rose is currently undergoing a feasibility study to see if it can be used to construct a new firehouse.

"I want to emphasize that the board has been doing their due diligence when it comes to looking for another station and it has been very difficult to do that," Poore said on Tuesday. "We're still in business; we might just be going to a temporary location."

The Newcastle Fire Protection District Board of Directors will meet Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Newcastle Elementary in the staff room.

Contact Amber Marra at Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.