Vashon Island Fire & Rescue (VIFR) has sold the building that was donated to the department by the South End Community Club in 2012, where island neighbors gathered to host community functions for decades.
Fire Chief Charlie Krimmert said the department does not have enough volunteer firefighters to staff the building, and that there has not been a station attendant based inside the old clubhouse for over a year.
Krimmert said the district listed the property for $350,000 earlier this month. The building was officially sold to Peter Meyers last week.
He added that the proceeds from the sale will be used for the upkeep of the properties the district manages.
“All monies will be put into a reserve fund just for existing and new facilities. The money is only set aside for buildings,” he said.
The South End Community Club was founded in the 1940s. Members built the simple clubhouse in 1964 in partnership with the fire department, which leased the space from the organization to provide fire service to the south end of Vashon. The building also established a community meeting place for club members who held celebrations, potluck dinners and an annual picnic on the grounds, attended by generations of islanders.
“It’s sad for the South End Community Club, and I can appreciate that,” said Krimmert, who was made chief of the department in 2016. He noted that he understood it was a similarly difficult decision for the former Vashon Firefighters’ Association to disband and bestow its building to the department ten years ago, across the street from VIFR headquarters on Bank Road.
Krimmert said the sale of the building is a first step toward fulfilling the district’s aspirations to provide optimal fire protection on the island. He said the best configuration for the district would be to offer services out of three stations as opposed to the five it has supervised historically. Those would include the department’s base of operations in town, one station centrally located on Maury Island, and another in Burton.
“I think [ultimately] it’s progress for the island,” he said.
Bailey de longh, the president of the South End Community Club, said she was hopeful members would find a new space where they can gather. She added that the clubhouse was pivotal in the south end for years on account of the need for fire infrastructure there, as well as the poor conditions of roads on the island when it was first built, impeding opportunities for neighbors to socialize with one another.
“People didn’t run up to town like we do now. Life is totally different from when [the club] started,” she said.
She also said she would like the fire district to formally honor the club’s donation of its meeting space to VIFR since it was given in the name of public service and has a substantial sentimental and financial value.
“We could have sold it, but we chose not to. We chose to give back to the community,” she said.
VIFR commissioner Candy McCullough said the gesture was not lost on the district.
“The fire district wants to express their gratitude, their sincere gratitude, to the South End Community Club for their generous donation of the building to the district,” she said. “We aspire to provide the best possible response island wide — not just to the south end — and that generous donation will aid in our movement toward that.”