New fire station in Upper Ojai opens after years of planning

Ventura County Fire Department officials officially opened a new station in Upper Ojai Friday morning with tours for neighbors and local officials.

Station 20 at 12000 Santa Paula-Ojai Road – also known as Highway 150 – replaces a facility built over 60 years ago.

The $7.3 million building totals 8,504 square feet and sits on a 2.3-acre site. The facilities include two “pass-through” engine compartments to facilitate the driving of fire engines in and around the site. There is ample space for large equipment like water tanks that hold thousands of gallons.

The Ventura County Fire Department's new Station 20 in Upper Ojai opened Friday.  The $7.3 million facility is located less than a mile west of the old station on Highway 150 which dates back to 1959.

The old Station 20, built in 1959 about a half mile east of the new building, will serve as the post for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Upper Ojai Search and Rescue Team.

The old station was just 2,048 square feet and felt cramped by comparison, noted Ventura County Fire Chief Dustin Gardner.

“It all had to be together,” Gardner said. “There was no space” to separate used and contaminated gear.

An equipment bay that separates the two wings of the new station makes it easier for firefighters to handle equipment away from eating, lounging and sleeping areas.

A wing of the new site is dedicated to housing with four bedrooms and two bathrooms.

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Elsewhere, a fitness room and a living room furnished with four black leather recliners around a television allow firefighters to train and relax. The kitchen and dining area are finished in stainless steel and dark wood for an overall modern feel.

The design, by Ardalan Construction, was approved by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in September 2019. Plans for an updated facility had been in the works for about 10 years before authorities took effect in 2020 .

“The quality and attention to detail is phenomenal,” Gardner said of the completed building.

Outside, near the main entrance, there are public toilets and an area for bicycle repairs.

“We wanted our station to feel like a community,” Gardner said.

Gardner spoke at a ceremony to dedicate the new station that was attended by county, city and elected officials as well as retired firefighters — some who worked at the old station — and members from the community.

Malakai Morris, 5, was asked to cut the ceremonial ribbon in front of a crowd of around 40 people. He was accompanied by his parents and his grandmother, Nomi Morris, who has lived in Upper Ojai for about 20 years. The grandmother’s house is near the new station.

The groundbreaking for the Ventura County Fire Department's new Station 20 in Upper Ojai was held in January 2020. The completed facility opened its doors on Friday with a ceremony and viewings.

The family said they liked seeing the facility being built from nothing but bare earth. Nomi Morris recalled dropping by Malakai to observe the construction process after the inaugural early 2020.

“He loves trucks and construction,” Morris said. “It was exciting for him.”

Cytlalli Salgado is a breaking news reporter for the Ventura County Star. She can be reached by calling 805-437-0257 or emailing [email protected]