New fire sta­tions un­der study

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Front Page - By Kristi Garabrandt [email protected]­ald.com @Kris­ti_G_1223 on Twit­ter

Concord Town­ship Fire Chief Matthew Sabo be­lieves keep­ing the town­ship’s fire­fight­ers safe is key to the depart­ment keep­ing the res­i­dents safe.

This is one of the rea­sons the chief and town­ship ad­min­is­tra­tors are look­ing at build­ing two new fire sta­tions.

The two fire­houses cur­rently in the town­ship were both built back in the mid-1960s with the in­tent to have a life span of 50 years. Sta­tion 1 was orig­i­nally built as the com­mu­nity cen­ter and is lo­cated at 11600 Concord Hamb­den Road and Sta­tion 2 is lo­cated at 10154 Prouty Road.

Both build­ings have un­der­gone some ren­o­va­tions and up­dates but not enough to meet the grow­ing needs of a grow­ing town­ship, larger fire trucks and in­creased staffing, the chief says.

Due to the size of the sta­tions and the sta­tions’ doors, when the fire depart­ment pur­chases a new fire truck they have to spend more to have one cus­tom­made to fit the space they have. The 12-foot bay doors do not al­low for a stan­dard 14-foot fire truck.

In 2017, the town­ship reached out to the Ohio Fire Chiefs As­so­ci­a­tion re­quest­ing they do a fea­si­bil­ity study to see if there was a way to make the two sta­tions fit the fire pro­gram the town­ship has, Sabo said.

The as­so­ci­a­tion de­cided both sta­tions have ex­ceeded their life span and are not up to code. They also con­cluded that it would be a con­sid­er­able ex­pense to the town­ship to up­grade the two struc­tures, and that it still wouldn’t help them reach the goal of re­duc­ing re­sponse times and pro­vid­ing a safe and liv­ing and work­ing en­vi­ron­ment for the fire­fight­ers.

The rec­om­men­da­tion was for the town­ship to con­sider build­ing new sta­tions, ac­cord­ing to Sabo.

“Fire sta­tions are very unique be­cause it’s not just a stor­age build­ing, it’s not just a busi­ness of­fice. We have three oc­cu­pan­cies un­der one roof,” he said. “We have a busi­ness sec­tion. We have the ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fice. We have a res­i­den­tial as­pect where the fire­fight­ers live and we have the stor­age is­sue where the trucks are.”

Sabo’s con­cern is that gear is be­ing stored in the bay, ex­posed to the diesel ex­haust. This puts the fire­fight­ers at risk of ex­po­sure to car­cino­gens.

There have been some improvements made in re­cent years to the sta­tions with the help of grant money. In 2016, a di­rect source cap­ture ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem was added to the bay area for some of the ve­hi­cles so the diesel is ex­pelled di­rectly out­side.

“That has made a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in our liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment, for the health and safety of our fire­fight­ers,” Sabo said.

The sta­tion also used a Bureau of Work­ers Com­pen­sa­tion grant to pur­chase a geared laun­dry sys­tem and ex­trac­tor.

“So all those are steps that we are tak­ing are to im­prove the health and safety of our fire­fight­ers,” Sabo said.

Now the town­ship is look­ing to do more.

It has se­lected a firm, Le­May Erickson Will­cox out of Vir­ginia, to be the prin­ci­pal ar­chi­tect. Concord Fire ad­min­is­tra­tion met with the firm last week to dis­cuss the fire pro­gram and space re­quire­ments and es­tab­lish a plan for the depart­ment’s fu­ture.

One of the is­sues faced by the depart­ment which can re­sult in de­layed re­sponse times is the sta­tions not be­ing large enough to house all the equip­ment and re­sponse ve­hi­cles.

A backup am­bu­lance is cur­rently be­ing stored in the ser­vice garage. Get­ting to that am­bu­lance in­volves go­ing through a gate and a locked door into an­other garage. The stored am­bu­lance is not the pri­mary one the sta­tions uses but they have been us­ing it more and more.

A John Deere Ga­tor with a skid for pa­tient ex­trac­tion is also stored off site.

“We just don’t have the space to store the equip­ment that we have had to add to our com­ple­ment over the years to meet the de­mands of the com­mu­nity,” Sabo said. “So the idea is to first make sure we can get all this equip­ment un­der one roof and to pro­vide a safe en­vi­ron­ment for our fire­fight­ers and the com­mu­nity.”

“I want to make sure that ev­ery­one gets to go home. That’s my job and if we can change the en­vi­ron­ment to meet that goal that is what I’m go­ing to do,” he said. “I want these peo­ple to re­tire to healthy re­tire­ment.”

The new sta­tions would in­clude ven­ti­la­tion sys­tems and de­con­tam­i­na­tion ar­eas for fire­fight­ers and their gear to avoid the risk of car­ry­ing car­cino­gens into the liv­ing ar­eas.

An­other con­cern of Sabo’s is that the fire­fight­ers at Sta­tion 1 live on the sec­ond floor which means they have to go down the stairs to get to the bay. His goal is to put them all on the same floor to make it more ef­fi­cient for them to get to the trucks safely.

In ad­di­tion to the phys­i­cal safety of the fire­fight­ers, Sabo is look­ing out for their mental health.

“The de­sign of the sta­tion has a lot to do with mental health. It’s not just the col­ors used and that stuff but these guys don’t have any­where to go to de­com­press. There’s nowhere to go just to get away,” he said.

Sabo said they are be­ing very de­lib­er­ate as they move for­ward with this pro­ject. He doesn’t want any­one to get sticker shock or a pre­ma­ture pic­ture of what this would look like.

The pro­ject is only in the first phase of just finding po­ten­tial for the pro­ject so they can de­velop a bud­get. This could take 10 to 12 months. Cost or the fund­ing source for it is not known at this time.

“This is a de­lib­er­ate slow process be­cause we only get one shot at this and we are go­ing to make sure it is done right for the fire­fight­ers, the staff and the com­mu­nity,” Sabo said.

“We are not rush­ing through this. I started re­search­ing back in 2016 what was in­volved in re­mod­el­ing or re­plac­ing a fire­house and what steps need to be taken.

“Here we are com­ing into 2019 and just start­ing with the very early stages of plan­ning this,” he added. “Three years to get this far shows that we are com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure that what­ever we do is right for the com­mu­nity.”

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