For more than half a century Los Angeles City Fire Station No. 62 has served the Mar Vista community, but it was only recently that the station got a new updated home.
The original Fire Station 62, built in the 1950s, operated out of a one-story facility on Centinela Avenue, near Charnock Road in Mar Vista. Firefighters at Station 62 say the original facility served the community well over the years but it became outdated as time went by.
Originally built to house just four firefighters, the station provided “cramped quarters” for the additional personnel who were assigned there over the years, and the facility began to show its age, with plaster peeling off the walls, said Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Engineer Lou Rodrigues, who served at the original station for six years.
But while Station 62 outgrew its Centinela Avenue facility, firefighters who stayed there say they became attached to it and felt bittersweet about leaving it behind.
“I have mixed emotions because I liked the old station,” said Rodrigues, who added that he was particularly fond of its location on the hill. “It felt like the little engine house on the hill.”
LAFD Capt. Frank Semenza added that although the station was without heating or air conditioning, he too became used to its atmosphere.
“I’ll miss the closeness of it, but we still maintain the camaraderie here,” said Semenza, a 19-year LAFD firefighter.
Station 62 personnel became accustomed to the Centinela facility but knew it was time to move on to a larger station that could allow for expansion and meet the demands of the fire department in the future.
It has now been seven months since the firefighters took over the new 15,250-square-foot Station 62 at 11970 Venice Blvd., near Inglewood Boulevard in Mar Vista, and they couldn’t be more pleased with their new digs.
“Overall, it’s state of the art,” said Rodrigues, a 14-year LAFD firefighter. “The creature comforts are head-and-shoulders above the old one. I’ve grown to really enjoy the station.”
While it has been over half a year since the firefighters began operating out of the new station, the city will officially recognize the $9.4-million facility with a grand opening ceremony scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, January 5th, at the station. Among the officials scheduled to appear at the ceremony are Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LAFD Fire Chief Douglas Barry, City Councilman Bill Rosendahl and city engineer Gary Lee Moore.
Mar Vista community members say they are also pleased to see that the firefighters have a new, roomier base of operation from which to respond to emergency calls in their neighborhood.
“To bring something up to date for fire and rescue is excellent,” Mar Vista resident Steve Wallace said. “What they had before was a prehistoric little thing.
“We need to have a first-class team with a first-class apparatus for any kind of situation.”
The new two-story Station 62 includes offices, a conference room, a kitchen and dining area and a multipurpose room on the first floor. The second floor includes sleeping rooms, lockers and showers for the fire personnel. A new feature that firefighters praise is the facility’s workout room.
The station houses a fire engine, a rescue ambulance and four reserve fire trucks.
With the move from the 4,190-square-foot Centinela Avenue station to the Venice Boulevard facility, firefighters don’t expect their response times to improve that much but say a main difference is that the station now has room to grow.
“We have the capability to grow with the community,” Rodrigues said.
Rosendahl, a Mar Vista resident who lives close to the new Station 62, said the community is thrilled to have a larger station up and running that allows for expansion in the future.
“As the community continues to grow, we know the fire station has the capability and capacity to provide safety,” the councilman said.
Eighteen firefighters are assigned to the station, which has a community coverage area bounded by Ocean Park Boulevard, Jefferson Boulevard, Sepulveda Boulevard and Walgrove Avenue. There are six firefighters per shift and they typically work three 24-hour shifts per week.
The station averages about eight to ten calls per shift, with a majority — approximately 75 percent — relating to medical emergencies and the remainder being a mix of calls, including traffic accidents and fires, Rodrigues said.
The firefighters say they have become close with their colleagues on their shift and are all dedicated to serving the community.
“We all agree that with every call we get, we want to do the best job we can,” Semenza said.
For Rodrigues, working at Station 62 has allowed him to serve the community in which he grew up. A Venice High School graduate, Rodrigues said he encountered Station 62 firefighters growing up and is proud to be back in Mar Vista.
“I always used to see ’62s’ when I was a kid,” said Rodrigues, who drives the fire engine for his shift.
“When I had the opportunity to go back, it was real exciting to me. I felt like I was actually coming back home.
“I feel very grounded and part of the community.”
Rodrigues noted that the station’s new location has changed its primary response route from Centinela Avenue at the old facility to the narrower Inglewood Boulevard. The new site in the heart of Mar Vista, next to the Mar Vista Library on Venice Boulevard, will help make Station 62 a “higher profile” facility in the community, Rodrigues said.
Residents agreed, saying that with the fire station and Mar Vista Library located side-by-side along Venice Boulevard, it will help boost beautification efforts in the community.
“[Station 62] is very well situated,” Wallace said. “Now we have two nice buildings on the boulevard there.”
Former Mar Vista Community Council chair Tom Ponton added, “It’s nice that downtown Mar Vista is showing upgrades.”
In its more than 50 years in Mar Vista, Station 62 has provided a sense of comfort for residents as a community service facility that responds to various emergencies, Ponton said.
In return, the community has given back with several local groups, such as the Mar Vista Community Council and Rotary Club of Century City, helping out at fire department functions, Semenza said.
“I believe that in my 19 years as a city firefighter, this is the best community I’ve worked in as far as community involvement,” Semenza said of the Station 62 coverage area.
As the Station 62 firefighters continue answering emergency calls from their new facility, they plan to keep working to provide quality community service.
“Our goal with each platoon is to go out on each and every call and do the best we can,” Semenza said.