The Woodward News

Local News

August 5, 2013

Firefighters await more space with new station



But while a little more elbow room is what the firefighters say they would look forward to most in the new station, that's not where they say the benefits end.

"I like the new location a lot better," Johannesmeyer said.  "I don't know how many times I've almost been T-boned at this intersection."

Beyond issues with traffic not yielding for the fire vehicles, the current location is also problematic in trying to get vehicles out of the station to begin with.

"It's frustrating when we have an actual emergency going on and we're stuck at the station waiting for cars to move so we can get out," Rogers said.  "We even had to drive through the yard at one point just to get out."

"It was for a structure fire, when we were stuck in the south drive and just couldn't get through traffic," Foster added.

The problem only gets worse with the more that the city grows, as more people leads to more emergency calls.

Chief Day said the station was averaging around 350 calls a year in the late-1970s through the mid-1980s.  That number has now more than quintupled.

"We had right around 1,800 calls at the end of last year," Foster said.

Specifically, the fire department's calls totaled 1,794 at the end of 2012, Day said.

However, with the new station planned to go in at the intersection of 8th St. and Williams Ave., the firefighters would gain signal control over the traffic lights there, so they could stop traffic and be able to exit the station whenever they needed.

The new station would also offer features that the current one does not.

This includes a training room, where the firefighters can gather for classes to stay current on their fire response techniques and EMT skills.

Day said the training room will also serve double duty as a secondary emergency operations center or backup dispatch center if needed.

There will also be a fitness center located within the station, featuring just basic exercise equipment such as 2 treadmills, exercise bike and some weights.

Currently the firefighters have to utilize training and fitness facilities at 2 other separate buildings within the city complex.  With the new station they would be able to stay at the one facility and still be in a position to respond quickly should any emergency arise.

While a fitness center may seem like a bit of a luxury for those of us who have to pay for our gym memberships, the firefighters said you have to keep in mind the physicality of their jobs.

"You go try to pick up a 350-pound person out of a bathroom and you'll see why we need to work out," Foster said.  "Or put on a full pack of gear in 105 degrees."

"Fitness is an important part of our jobs," Johannesmeyer said.  "Because if we don't have a certain level of fitness, then how long are we going to be able to last in our bunker suits when we're out trying to put out your house fire?"

Beyond its many additions and new features, the firefighters also say that the new station is simply long overdue.

"The station has been in this building (at 9th St. and Oklahoma Ave.) since 1918," the fire chief said.

"And has only had minimal remodels in that time," Rogers said.  "Besides carpet and some paint, nothing has really been updated in years.  I don't know when the last time the kitchen was updated."

"It was before I started working here," Day said, noting that he's been with the department for over 20 years.

The new station will not only house a much larger and updated kitchen and dining room area, but will also include 3 pantries, so that each shift can store their food separately.

The new station will also offer updated heating and cooling systems, which Ivie said is lacking in the current facility.

"Just with the inefficiency of this building to heat or cool it, we need a new station," he said.  "Right now the air conditioners or heaters run 24/7 just to keep up.  It's because this is such an old building with cracks and leaks."

The fire chief said the current station has served it's purpose but it is time to move forward.

"This building has lasted us for 95 years, and I hope the new one will last us for the next 100 years," Day said, noting that the new station "will be built for expansion with room to add more firefighters and equipment in the future."

But for those who still have questions about why a new fire station is needed, all the firefighters have the same answer for you: come take a tour of the current station and see for yourself.

"I would invite anyone who doesn't believe we need a new fire station to come up and talk with us and see our issues," Rogers said.

"If they have concerns and questions, just come up and see for themselves, we'll let them walk around," McDowell said.

"In fact we encourage it," Foster said.

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