Congress members are pushing for funding and a new formal proposal to rebuild the Pentagon fire station destroyed in the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Plans to rebuild the station have stalled amid cost concerns, the News4 I-Team reported in May. The firefighters assigned to the station have worked for 15 years out of temporary trailers, which do not meet all U.S. Army standards for military fire stations.
The destroyed fire station housed firefighters and a crash truck assigned to respond to emergencies at the Pentagon’s helipad, which handles incoming and outgoing helicopter flights for military administrators, foreign dignitaries and the president’s Marine One. U.S. Department of Defense officials and the local firefighter union have discussed rebuilding the station during the past 15 years.
The I-Team investigation revealed a series of bureaucratic hurdles, including a Defense Department cost estimate that wildly misjudged the price of the project, have stalled the project. There is no longer a firm working plan for the rebuilding of the station and no timetable for its commencement or completion
Several members of Congress responded to the I-Team report, with several calling for a new plan to rebuild from Pentagon administrators and a formal appropriation of funding from Congress.
“Fifteen years is far too long to wait to make sure our first responders are in facilities that are top of the line and state of the art,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the top Democrat on the U.S. House Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies appropriations subcommittee.
“I would certainly 100 percent support a request from the Department of Defense and I certainly hope they make that request,” she said.
The firefighters at the Pentagon helipad must be equipped to handle major emergencies anywhere at the facility, said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who represents a section of northern Virginia near the Pentagon grounds.
“(The firefighters) are working out of trailers,” Beyer said. “The doors are falling off. The ceiling tiles are falling down. This is not the way we want to treat first responders.”
The U.S. Department of Defense expects to finalize a new plan to rebuild the fire station by this summer, Pentagon administrators told the I-Team.
“We should have a plan within a timeframe of months,” said Sajeel Ahmed, director of facilities for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Washington Headquarters Services.
Ahmed said the temporary trailers are safe and operational, but acknowledges the facilities are not sufficient for permanent usage by the firefighters.
The U.S. House is expected to debate military construction projects later this summer.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said military construction projects tend to produce bipartisan support.
“This is an area where you ought to be able to get an appropriation for an important project,” Kaine told the I-Team.
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.