While doing some research, I found a news item in FIRE CHIEF, November 1972, that said the Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, issued $1 million in federal grants to create jobs for the unemployed by constructing fire stations.
Among the cities awarded grant monies were Dillsboro, Ind., ($134,000) for a combination town hall and fire station. Raymondsville, Texas, received a grant of $104,000, plus an additional $26,200 from city coffers, to employ 13 people to complete a new station. Warren, Minn., Sparta, Tenn., Fort Smith, Ark., and Eunice, La., also received grants for new stations in 1972.
Thirty-seven years later, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act authorized $210 million in grant money to replace unsafe or uninhabitable fire department structures and expand fire-protection coverage in compliance with National Fire Protection Association standards.
According torepresentatives, 6,025 station-construction grant applications, requesting more than $9.9 million, were received by the application deadline. And another 2,000 applications were started, but not completed. It doesn't take a mathematician to figure there is a significant need for structures that will support the all-hazards fire and emergency-response services across North America.
I listened to the 2009 Station Style Design Award judges when they met for the judging. They agreed the first priority for a fire station is that it must be operationally sound. Site plans and available land were reviewed for safe, efficient response and return. A multitude of areas were delved into among the entries, including access to apparatus bays and elevators to second floors. Some judges preferred secure staff parking, while others put high marks on civic presence that was identifiable.
One discussion revolved around how, when a fire department makes a commitment to have a separate public-education area within the station, it opens the mission of the fire department because the public is encouraged to come in and discover the fire department as a resource.
Over the past nine years, three trends have emerged in fire-station design, as evidenced by the Station Style entries: designated fitness areas; exhaust or air-quality systems in apparatus bays; and fire sprinklers. Health and safety for firefighters and EMS has become a priority for all new fire station facilities. While costs vary by region and budget, the facilities described in this issue offer practical ideas and concepts to adopt, or adapt, for your department.
Future trends to watch include: segregated laundry rooms for PPE and stationwear; outside access to decontamination areas or away from living quarters; more sophisticated training systems integrated into the facility; and sustainability and environmental awareness ranging from all-LED lighting to LEED certification.
The consensus among the Station Style judges was that LEED certification would eventually become expected in all architecture. Judge Dave Fergus, a fire commissioner and architect, predicted that sustainability one day would become a standard element of fire-station building codes. “[Already] a lot of cities are funding LEED buildings.”
This year, the judges unanimously requested special recognition be awarded to the Franklin Street Station, Worcester, Mass. The city's newest fire station is located on the site of the abandoned, cold-storage facility where six Worcester firefighters died in December 1999. The judges agreed that a great deal of thought and emotion was put into the new Worcester station and while it is a traditional operations-based design, the structure also was designed for future expansion.
We hope the ninth annual Station Style Design Awards is a source of ideas and solutions for your department.