In the early morning hours on Jan. 31, 2014, a fire ignited in a home directly across the street from Fire Station 17 on Argonne Avenue in East Long Beach.

The station’s water-carrying Engine 17 had been shuttered in budget cuts, so firefighters were forced to bring an engine from Station 19, about 2 miles away. The incident brought renewed scrutiny to the cuts to police and fire budgets during the recession.

Now, more than four years later, the city is considering restoring Engine 17 thanks to a boost in revenue from the Measure A sales tax, approved by voters in 2016.

Fourth District Councilman Daryl Supernaw said the engine company, when it was sidelined at 2241 Argonne Ave. in 2012, left a major hole for service spanning from the 405 Freeway, south to the Seventh Street, west to Temple Avenue and east to Bellflower Boulevard.

Supernaw, whose late father was a Long Beach firefighter, said the vast area relies on engines from other parts of the city, slowing response times.

“This is something we’ve wanted restored for a long time,” he said. “I’m very optimistic that we can make it happen.”

(Photo of the newly-opened Station 17 on April 21, 1951. (L to R): unidentified firefigher, Fireman Don Supernaw, Eng. Jack Lane. Capt. Walt Nettlehorst.)

While the city’s 2019 proposed budget doesn’t yet include Engine 17, Mayor Robert Garcia has asked that the city manager find additional funding for the engine along with 12 new firefighters, for a cost of about $2.8 million annually.

The City Council will consider the matter as it discusses the budget over the next month. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Long Beach Fire Chief Mike DuRee said the restoration of Engine 17 could improve response times by up to a minute and a half in the area it serves, and by up to 30 seconds throughout the city.

“Having another engine able to respond to all calls eases the pressure on my system citywide,” he said.

DuRee said the effort comes at a time when Long Beach Fire is seeing a 3 to 5 percent increase in calls each year, mostly for medical emergencies. Calls for structure fires have increased at a slower rate with an average of about 5,300 a year, he said.

In the wake of the 2008 recession, the fire department lost five engine companies, one truck company and one ambulance service.

DuRee said he’s hopeful the city can continue to restore services. Last year, the city was able to restore Engine 8 in Belmont Shore and add 18 new fire positions with Measure A funds.

If the restoration of Engine 17 is successful, DuRee said Engine 101 at Fire Station 1 at Magnolia Avenue and Broadway would be next on the list.

The station serves a dense area with a growing population as Long Beach continues its construction boom.

While another engine in downtown can help, DuRee said firefighters will have to work with high rise developers as the city becomes more vertically dense.

“We’re constantly evaluating the density of our downtown and working on multifaceted approaches,” he said. “As Long Beach continues to grow, we’re evaluating best practice models in cities Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.”