Mich. FD opens $6M fire station with unique training equipment
Portage Station No. 2 includes gender-neutral locker and shower facilities, on-site training space and “clean” rooms to help prevent cross-contamination
By Joel Bissell
PORTAGE, Mich. — The city of Portage’s all-new Fire Station No. 2 went into service this October with a design that takes into account the health and wellness of the firefighters who will use it and offers some unique training opportunities.
The new facility at 6101 Oakland Drive replaces the oldest of three free stations in the city. Fire Station No. 2 is now the largest of the three stations at 18,364 square feet. The old station had a mere 8,000 square feet of space. Portage Fire responds to nearly 6,000 calls a year with station No. 1 and 2 responding to most of the calls. The station is also the closest to I-94 and often deploys the first response team. In 2018, the station responded to 2,154 calls.
The $6.1 million-dollar project was funded through the city’s capital improvement program funds. A 2015 evaluation found that it would be more cost-effective to build a new building rather than renovating the old station, which was built in 1974. The old station, which was adjacent to the new station was torn down this month and will become the driveway for the fire response vehicles.
“When we first put the design together for this station, we put a couple things in mind. One, that this building would be around for the next 50 years,” said Portage Senior Deputy Fire Chief Stacy French, who gave MLive a tour of the new facility on Monday, Oct. 19.
The building is divided into two halves -- an administration side with mostly offices and an operations side that includes living quarters for firefighters during their shifts.
The space includes gender-neutral locker and shower facilities, on-site training space and “clean” rooms to help prevent cross-contamination.
The “clean” rooms were a top priority of the department, which allows the firefighters to remove used equipment for cleaning as soon as they get off the truck. Clean rooms are designed to prevent cross-contamination and the spread of carcinogens.
The effort is just one way the department can work among its firefighters to prevent cancer, which has become a leading cause in death in firefighters across the nation, Senior Deputy Fire Chief John Podgorski said when the project was first approved in May 2019. Podgorski has since retired.
The new layout includes gender-neutral locker room and shower facilities and individual sleeping quarters to accommodate up to eight firefighters. The station is equipped with a new alerting system, providing rapid information that will come across multiple displays in the station. This will provide incident location and type. The system also will ramp up the lighting and volume within the bunk rooms to not startle the firefighters when they are being woken. “There has been studies down that this will help with the wellness of the personnel,” French said.
Another unique feature of the new station is the installation of training equipment that can be used at any time. Off of the main “apparatus bay," where fire trucks and other large equipment is parked, is a training tower equipped with a confined space area that consists of three manholes of different sizes. The vertical shafts drop some 13 feet below the station floor -- available for firefighters to simulate real-world rescue scenarios.
“We have never heard of any one doing that inside the station,” French said.
Another training component is the station’s fire hose tower, used for drying out long hoses. It also has a stairwell with a standpipe system, and multiple anchor point systems. The tower will be sued for multiple purposes -- from firefighter cardio to hose running training as well as both indoor and outdoor rappelling.
“These training areas allow us to train 365 days a year without worrying about the weather,” French said.
The apparatus bay, where the fire trucks and rescue vehicles are located, has four bays equipped with hoses to run exhaust outdoors. The extra space will allow the new station to house rescue equipment for county and regional teams as well.
The building is not LEED certified due to the cost, but designers still incorporated green technology throughout the building. Large windows let in more natural light, efficient doors help with heating and cooling and the design also included LED lighting and solar panels to heat the water.
Senior Deputy Fire Chief French said they plan to hold an open house for the public at a later time, but no date has been set due to the coronoavirus pandemic.
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