The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District recently awarded three contracts in Latvia to upgrade eight existing fire and rescue stations throughout the country. The contracts, awarded to Koger un Partneri and Ekers SIA, are part of a U.S. European Command-sponsored program to assist Latvia's State Fire and Rescue Service modernize its facilities.
The chief requirement in all eight stations, officials say, is to install insulated and automatically operated overhead roll-up doors that are at least 13.5 feet high, the minimum firehouse door height required to accommodate European-style fire engines that were donated to Latvia recently through European Union funds.
"A fire station is not assigned a new fire engine unless there are adequate facilities to house it," said Gunita Migliniece from the Office of Defense Cooperation Latvia, one of 44 EUCOM offices throughout Europe that execute security assistance and security cooperation programs under the direction of the local U.S. ambassador. "The problem with the fire stations' garages is that they were not made to house the new European-style fire engines."
The combination of new fire engines and modernized fire stations is expected to reduce emergency response times and improve the State Fire and Rescue Service's ability to respond to disasters, said Migliniece.
"The State Fire and Rescue Service of Latvia has [had] a difficult challenge of responding to a variety of complex and dangerous situations, from disaster response to rescue operations," said Migliniece. "We are proud to partner with them in this effort by helping build their capacity to respond to these situations more quickly and effectively."
The fire stations to undergo upgrades are located in the cities of Aizkraukle, Gulbene, Ķeipene, Liepāja, Līvāni, Strenči, Valka and Ventspils. In addition to receiving larger garage doors, most stations will also receive new vehicle exhaust ventilation systems and an upgraded mechanical and electrical system. Other work may include new roofing, exterior lighting, and repaired concrete flooring areas as required. According to the contract language, locally available materials are to be used wherever possible.
The eight contracts total $2.4 million and range from $144,000 to $477,000, depending on the upgrades. The contracts follow two previous awards to upgrade fire stations in the cities of Limbazi and Madona, both of which were renovated in 2011.
"This project was very important for us," said Maj. Gvido Kins, Limbazi fire station commander, of the renovation to his home station. "The main focus of [State Fire and Rescue Service] in last decade was renewing the equipment we had inherited from USSR, and often the situation with the facilities was put aside. Now, when we have our garage replanned and renovated, Limbazi firefighters can respond to calls more quickly."
According to Migliniece, the renovation projects have been recognized by Latvian senior leadership as well as local communities and are "yet another example of the strong U.S.-Latvian partnership."
"Even though the process is rather time-consuming, the assistance we have received from the USACE has been extremely helpful, especially with our projects becoming more complex," said Migliniece. "With the help of engineers, contracting officers and program managers, we have managed to develop a solid cooperation program that will help build Latvian SFRS's capacities."
EUCOM's Civic Engagement program assists partner nations in regional security cooperation efforts with an aim toward long-term, self-sustaining capability. Funded through Overseas Humanitarian Disaster Assistance and Civic Appropriations and EUCOM's own Operation and Maintenance funds, support activities can include assessments, training, construction projects, well drilling, medical assistance and transportation of non-lethal DoD excess property--all with an end goal of bolstering partner nations' civil sector capabilities.