Despite a nearly three-month delay in the completion of a new $430,000 fire station in Salt Lake City's Avenues district, residents won't see a drop in fire service, a fire department official assures.

Although the station, 830 E. 11th Ave., is 70 percent complete, work was stopped nearly two weeks ago when the city fired the project's contractor for failing to adhere to a "fast track" construction schedule.The bonding company for the former contractor, Jack D. Roberts Construction Co. of Spanish Fork, has taken over the project and is looking for a new contractor, City Engineer Max Peterson said.

But fire officials said the delay on the new Fire Station No. 4, which now is projected for completion by June 1, won't leave Avenues residents with poor fire protection.

"Citizens in the Avenues need not be concerned; there will be no reduction in their current level of fire service," Battalion Chief Gordon Nicholl said Monday.

Current fire facilities at the old Fire Station No. 4, 222 I St., will continue to provide service, although at the reduced manpower level all city fire stations have been under for nearly six months, Nicholl said.

"That fire station has been covering the Avenues since 1900 with no delays, and there will continue to be no delays," he said.

Fire Station No. 4 provides service for the Avenues area, while Fire Station No. 15 at the University of Utah provides protection for the campus area.

City officials plan to close No. 15 when the new Station No. 4 opens. The new station will assume fire protection responsibilities for the Avenues and the U., Nicholl said.

"Salt Lake City has determined we can better serve the Avenues by relocating Number Four (to the new facility) . . . because it will help us serve the upper Aveneus and give us better access to the University," Nicholl said.

Although the delay will not cost the city more than the $430,000 budgeted for the project, the fire department budgeted only $175,000 for keeping Station No. 15 open until December.

With the delay, the department must spend another $175,000 to staff No. 15 another six months, Fire Chief Peter O. Pederson told the City Council last week.

Pederson said the additional cost will prohibit him from hiring more firefighters until July 1 to account for a number of early retirements last year which forced the department to decrease staffing levels on fire crews.

The retirements mean the city must operate engines with less-than-desirable three-man crews - instead of four-man crews - at all of the department's stations for an additional six months because of the construction delay.

"The loss is being felt citywide in all of our fire services," Nicholl said. With only three-man crews, the department must usually respond to calls with two fire engines, instead of only one four-man-crew engine, Nicholl said.

"That depletes service in other areas in the city when other engines are out on call," he said.