New Mass. village fire station offers healthier workspace
The $6.75 million station is 4,500 square feet larger than its predecessor and has an exhaust system designed to reduce cancer risk
Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.
EAST HARWICH, Mass. — The opening of the new $6.75 million fire station in East Harwich for public tours Saturday was like an early Christmas present for fire officials.
But firefighters will have to wait another three weeks to enjoy Fire Station No. 2, as construction delays have set back the completion date.
A bid dispute has postponed the initial start date for the department to begin operating out of the new station. But Fire Chief Norman Clarke and Deputy Fire Chief David LeBlanc said during a tour of the station Tuesday that upgrades from the old station next door will be significant.
"It's a healthy station," said LeBlanc, who noted that the station design was, in part, a response to health studies that showed increased cancer risk to firefighters from diesel exhaust, chemicals and other factors.
Vehicle exhaust is hooked up to hoses draped from the ceiling that suck the fumes from tailpipes when engines start, leave the bays and return to park. The older station was about half the size of the new one, 5,000 square feet vs. 9,500 square feet, and the extra space allows living quarters and work spaces to be separated from the contaminants fire and rescue personnel encounter in their daily jobs.
For instance, the turnout room at the old station, which was built in 1976, wasn't a room at all, but rather lockers in the apparatus bays close to the vehicles. They would get wet when the equipment was being washed down, and the fumes of smoke and burning plastic from fires would remain in the work areas.
The new turnout area is a separate room off the apparatus bay where heavy coats, boots, helmets and other gear can be removed and hung up, while an exhaust system pulls the bad air away from the living quarters, LeBlanc said.
Another room with stainless steel sinks and a long stainless counter allow for washing down equipment that has been exposed to blood or other bodily fluids and contaminants.
On a more personal level, the five single bedrooms make it more comfortable for a mixed staff of men and women, who currently share a single common bunkroom at the old station.
Clarke has been a firefighter for 42 years, and he's served on the building committees that oversaw the construction of the new fire and police stations on Sisson Road as well as the new East Harwich station. He and his staff fulfilled the role of project manager, which he said saved the town $200,000.
"We are going to come in under budget," he predicted. "I hope significantly."
A new fire station has been on the capital plan for the past decade. The process of replacing the old station really kicked into gear in 2017, when the selectmen decided to back a new station over renovating and adding an addition to a facility that was over 45 years old. That project would have cost between $4.1 million and $6.6 million.
The old station was too small to accommodate larger rescue vehicles, firefighting vehicles and new technology and mandated spaces that a modern facility demands due to an expanded suite of tasks dealing with increased hospital runs, hazardous waste response and walk-in medical cases.
The Cape's year-round population has aged significantly since the station was built in 1976. Meanwhile, as many people live in East Harwich today as did in the whole town in the 1970s, and Fire Department statistics show that firefighters and rescue personnel at the station now respond to twice as many calls today as they did in 1988.
The East Harwich station keeps response times in that part of town down to four to six minutes compared to 12 minutes from the Sisson Road station, LeBlanc said.
©2019 Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.