By Heron Marquez Estrada
The Star Tribune
EAGAN, Minn. — The new $8 million safety center includes a dorm where some firefighters will live — a move that should cut response times dramatically — and is eco-friendly.
Eagan is hot for its new safety center, which features the first green fire station in the nation.
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A warm glow comes over city officials when they start talking about the $8 million facility, which opened last week.
The safety center has dozens of geothermal wells for heating and cooling, LED and natural lighting throughout, even recycled ash trees and recycled building materials.
"It's absolutely fantastic," City Administrator Tom Hedges said at the opening attended by hundreds of residents on Thursday afternoon.
Most importantly, the closing and relocation of two fire stations from outlying areas to near the heart of the city's industrial-commercial centers should help reduce response times for fire calls, possibly by as much as half in some cases.
Hedges said that having six of the city's volunteer firefighters live in the facility should improve response times. In a relatively new concept, the six firefighters will be provided free dorm rooms in exchange for their presence at the station.
"We were fearful that our response time was getting longer," Hedges said. "We want firefighters in the station. Here, if there is a fire, then BOOM!, they are in the truck right away."
The safety center also will serve as a training site, with a smoke-filled room for search-and-rescue drills, a stairwell that drains so water hoses can be used inside it, and an indoor area where ladders can be used to practice roof and window rescues.
The Eagan Police Department will use the facility for training and evidence storage, as well. The city's emergency operations center, which was at the police department, is now at the safety center.
Mayor Mike Maguire said that almost from the start, the city wanted to build a green facility. It was able to become the first fire station certified by Green Globes, a system of rating energy uses and environmental efficiencies of new construction projects.
"I'm very, very proud of the station," Maguire said. "It reflects our community and our priorities."
Another interesting feature of the facility is that the city's first fire truck, restored by volunteers, will be housed on permanent display. And there will be a replica of one of the city's original police squad cars.
"The whole concept, the geothermal, the green savings, just seemed to make sense," Hedges said. "We try and build for the future."
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