TURLOCK -- Dust, noise and maybe a little heartache are expected this week off Minaret Avenue.
The old Fire Station No. 1 is coming down.
The City Council voted to demolish the post-World War II site in December despite an outcry from local history buffs and preservationists.
The concrete block station on Minaret Avenue was built in 1953. It was the city's emergency command center and bomb shelter during the Cold War. There are cracks up the side from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and on a two-story tower where cotton fire hoses were hung to dry.
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Turlock Historical Society members have said the building is a fine example of 1950s architecture and was toasted in its day as a model of energy efficiency.
The new $3.5 million Fire Station No. 1, a modern building of pitched roofs and large glass windows, is 10 feet from the old building and went up with the premise that the old one would come down and be turned into a parking lot.
Firefighters moved into the new building earlier this month.
A half-empty drink bottle and a Turlock Fire Department t-shirt sat waiting to go out with the trash in the turn-out closet Monday -- the room that once held smoky fire jackets and rolled-down boots. Asbestos removal crews started work last week. Sealed bags of ceiling material, insulation, wallboard and flooring lay in a pile where an engine once rested.
Pacific Gas and Electric disconnected lines Monday morning. Backhoes, back-end loaders and heavy trucks could start taking down the walls as soon as today.
"First, we need to make sure all the utilities stuff gets buttoned up," said Stephen Fremming, city assistant engineer.
No wrecking balls or dynamite will bring the building down. That would present a problem for the new fire station, and for Cheryl Medeiros, whose rental home is less than 5 feet away.
"We're going to miss the old station," Medeiros said. "The firefighters are always polite, pretty courteous. They usually don't turn on the sirens until they're well down the street. ... But I don't think that will change."
Turlock Historical Society members plan to take photographs of the building today, said Thea Harris, the group's president.
"It's a very unfortunate circumstance for our city that our council doesn't see the importance of preserving historical buildings," she said. "They had a perfect opportunity. It's just really unfortunate."
Councilman Ted Howze, who voted for the demolition, said it was the last piece of a five-year planning process. The previous council approved plans for the new fire station, which required demolishing the building, and the Historical Society only voiced concern after the new building was built, he said.
"They showed up late in the game and they're trying to lump blame on this City Council when it wasn't our process and wasn't our decision," he said. "They're trying to stop a rolling boulder that's already moving."
Bee staff writer Michael R. Shea can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2391.