The design of the Southport (N.C.) Fire Department's headquarters station respects and honors the architectural heritage of its home — a small, pleasant, historic seaport near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. In fact, architect Scott Garner of Garner & Brown Architects, PA, spent almost a week walking around the town and studying the local architecture during the bidding process.
Chief Greg Cumbee said one of the most popular aspects of the new facility is its bi-fold doors on the apparatus bays.
"We get so many comments from people in the community, and all the firefighters are really impressed with those doors," he said. "We even have wedding parties from all over the area come up and ask to have their photographs taken in front of the closed apparatus bay doors."
But the bays did cause some design issues, as did the size and configuration of the building.
"Drive-through bays were very important, and this required acquisition of additional land," Garner said. "Even with this, the site is still very tight."
Located in a hurricane-prone coastal zone, the station includes an emergency operations center on the second floor of the building that can accommodate up to 50 people, with 40 separate phone lines. The station also includes a commercial kitchen and facilities to shelter residents.
The tower portion of the building serves not only an architectural element, but also serves as a required exit and training facility. An additional training room is located on the lower-level of the facility.
The city-owned fire department been an all-volunteer department since its founding in 1893. But the state-of-the-art headquarters is designed to facilitate the transition from an all-volunteer department to a career department during its lifecycle.
"There isn't anybody who isn't impressed with this station," Cumbee said.
Since 1950, the fire department has hosted the annual Christmas parade. With the opening of the new station, more than 1,100 people attended last year for the festivities. "It was designed with our community in mind," Cumbee said.
Brunswick County's first fire truck, a 1922 Model-T, is housed in a fire museum next to the headquarters and is occasionally brought out for a parade or other special events.