WASHINGTON — Members of the Washington City Council and a few city staffers had a chance to tour the new fire station Tuesday, Nov. 12.
Washington Fire Chief Tom Wide led the councilors and staff on a tour of the new building that is more than twice as large as the old fire station. He said the old station was about 5,000 square feet, and the new one is close to 14,000 square feet. Wide said the fire department moved its fire engines to the new station the prior week, and the firefighters have responded to a few fires since then from the new station.
The new fire station is adjacent to the old one, just south of it. The city has already started remodeling work on the former station, which will become additional space for the adjoining city hall and police department. Later, the current city hall and police station will be renovated, too.
Washington’s new fire station has many things the old one lacked: a meeting room, fitness room, a place for gear, and more than anything, enough floor space to fit all the department’s fire trucks and equipment. That wasn’t true before when the fire department had to store some of its equipment outside and some of its vehicles at other locations.
Wide said that if the firefighters wanted to have a meeting in the old station, they had to move trucks off the floor to have enough room. They won’t have to do that anymore.
Equipment for the fitness room is being purchased from donations and grants from organizations such as Washington County Betterment Foundation and the Brinton Charitable Trust.
Washington Mayor Jaron Rosien was among those to accompany Wide on the tour of the facility. He said he is thrilled to see the department has moved into its “fantastic facility.”
“This multiphase project has been years in the making, and well illustrates important big picture thinking as our small city plans for the future,” Rosien said. “I am thankful for and very proud of the volunteer fire association for contributing significantly to really knock this project out of the park. For instance, they purchased all of the kitchen appliances and they paid for and built the entire south retaining wall, just to name a couple big contributions.”
Change in fire response
The new station will change how the fire department responds to fire calls. Under the old way of doing things, the firefighters kept their uniforms and gear in their own personal vehicles. When a fire call came in, they drove directly to the scene, put their gear on there, and began to fight the fire.
Wide said there wasn’t a convenient alternate to that system, until now. The new station has enough room and enough parking for all the firefighters to drive to the station, put their gear on, and then go to the fire. He said this way should be both faster — because the firefighters can put their gear on en route — and safer for the firefighters.
“All the stuff we get into is hazardous,” Wide said. “If you’re taking your own vehicle to the scene, and storing gear in your vehicle, you could get that hazardous material in your vehicle and pass it onto anyone else who enters it.”
The new station has shower facilities and commercial washing machines to ensure that the firefighters are not tracking those harmful substances they encounter at a fire home with them.
The new station has a second floor on its south side with about 800 square feet of storage. The storage room has two double doors that open to the inside, allowing a person up there to see the whole fleet of trucks in the building.
The councilors were curious about these doors since their purpose was unclear. They did not lead to steps or a balcony or anything like that. Wide said the doors allow the fire department to transport items to and from and the storage room when the stairs are inconvenient. But more than that, the doors allow the firefighters to train for rescue operations involving a ladder or rappelling down the side of a tall building.
Another new feature of this fire station are built-in manholes, another training feature. The firefighters use these manholes to practice rescue operations in tight quarters, such as rescuing a city worker trapped in a manhole.
The department’s fleet includes two mainline pumpers, a 100-foot aerial platform, two off-road grass trucks and two water tankers. The department also runs a dive team, and the station hosts Washington County Rescue. The rescue team has a boat, which it had to store off-site, though Wide believes the new station has enough space to store it, too. It has an all-terrain vehicle — a Ranger — which it uses mostly for putting out field fires or wildfires, in areas the larger trucks can’t drive to.
Wide said the Washington City Council has been fully supportive of the project all the way through.
“The current council and past councils have been involved in getting this project going,” Wide said.
One of the town’s major get-togethers is the annual pancake feed at the Washington Fire Station. Wide is excited to announce that tradition will continue in the new station.
“This year, we’ll probably have an extra-large crowd come to see the new station, and we have enough room inside that people shouldn’t have to stand outside waiting in line,” he said.
The pancake feed will be in January.