Residents on the eastern side of the city near Syene and Clayton roads have a new neighbor.
And this new neighbor is hoping it doesn’t get too many noise complaints.
Earlier this month, the Fitchburg Fire Department and Fitch-Rona EMS moved into Station No. 3, the first fire/EMS station on the eastern side of the city.
The $8 million, 26,832 square-foot facility is the second new fire station in the city in two years, and is designed to be the last for a while, accommodating continued growth on the city’s east side and an eventual incorporation of part of the Town of Madison.
“We’re very fortunate that now we actually have a building on the east side of the city,” FFD deputy chief of operations Chad Grossen said. “We’re really excited that now we can have a better response on this side city, especially as it continues to grow.”
Fire Station No. 3 joins its slightly older sibling, Fire Station No. 2, which was finished in the summer of 2017 on Marketplace Drive, and Fire Station No. 1 on Lacy Road, which is under renovation from a functioning fire station to house the offices of department administration and serve as an emergency operations center for the city.
Keeping the administrative offices at the Lacy Road location allowed for Station No. 3 to have a smaller design, saving the city around $1 million, chief Joe Pulvermacher told the Star last week during a tour of the new fire station.
Half the fire department staff works out of each station, Grossen said, with staff being delegated based on station needs and the staff member’s distance to each location.
The new station includes living amenities for fire department staff, including a kitchen with appliances sourced from Sub-Zero, a workout room, a meeting room that can fit all 80 department employees, a locker room with gender-neutral private bathrooms and spaces where staff can run practice drills.
“For certain things that we do, from a confined space or a firefighter rescue standpoint, those drills are actually built into the station,” Pulvermacher said.
Fire Station No. 3 has design features intended to make calls faster and safer for staff, including moving the lockers into an alcove away from the diesel machines to prevent inhalation of fumes, as well as prevent accidents, and positive pressure spaces to insulate the rest of the station from soot-stained gear.
The city has been planning for Stations No. 2 and 3 for a decade. Ald. Tom Clauder (Dist. 4), who was mayor when the city began planning for it, told the Star that even then, city officials had a good idea of where the city would see growth.
The location was chosen after a city committee saw a need for a new fire station in that part of the city, based on future development predictions, Clauder added.
“We were going to build to the east,” he said. “We needed a place that would be good for all of the residents over there.”
The city plans to eventually use station’s training room as a polling location for District 4 residents, Pulvermacher said.
In addition to the development that has been edging toward U.S. Hwy. 14, the city soon will expand further the east under an agreement it’s had for nearly two decades to absorb parts of the Town of Madison. The town will dissolve by October 2022, and its area south of the Beltline will become part of Fitchburg.
That makes having an east side fire station important, Ald. Janell Rice (D-4) said, to be able to have services near where a growing population lives and lower response times.
Despite Station No. 3 having only been functional for less than two weeks, response times on the eastern side of the city have already decreased by a minute-and-a-half, Rice said.
“If you know anyone who has ever had a stroke, you know that 1.5 minutes changes the quality of life of that person going forward,” she said. “The fact that we’ve got appropriate resources close to not only where our citizens are, but where our growth is … I think that this particular location is going to give the people that live over in that area peace of mind.”
Safety in mind
When considering the design for Station No. 3, Grossen’s top priority was ensuring staff could do their jobs safely.
That manifested into a facility that focuses on risk reduction, he added.
The design of the Lacy Road station had firefighters putting their gear out in the apparatus bay, with lockers lining the walls.
“What was happening is that you may have firefighters come in and slipping on the floors as a truck would go out the door,” he said. “So we’re eliminating the risk of you getting your gear on and trucks pulling out no more than a foot away from you.”
The open-air locker alcove allows for a barrier for equipment, as well, with a positive pressure setup to keep the smell of soot inside so fans can suck them out, allowing outerwear to air-dry more effectively, Grossen said.
“It goes up and out, instead of the smell going out into the apparatus bay,” he said.
The station features a few manholes that lead to nowhere. And they weren’t mistakes.
Those, Pulvermacher explained, are a built-in training exercise to prepare firefighters for a variety of situations. They’re part of several training-friendly amenities at the station.
Pulvermacher noted the basement, as a result, has manhole covers on its ceiling.
“It’s a no-nonsense, functional area that isn’t intended to be pretty,” he said.
A door in the wall from the mezzanine above the garage opens to the outside, allowing staff to run drills involving multi-story cascades.
The training room on the northern end of the building is meant as a multi-function space, for use by the department or other city departments who are in need of a larger gathering space.
Pulvermacher said students in the Madison College fire services training program will attend classes there along with trainings with other regional fire departments.
Station No. 3 is convenient for other departments’ training because of its location, Pulvermacher said.
“(The station is) somewhat central, parking is good and they have the ability to get home a little bit quicker, especially if they’re coming from the south side of Dane County,” he said. “We try to reach out as much as possible and be that go-to agency.”
Meeting staff needs
The station is also designed to be comfortable for firefighters who work long shifts.
There are 12 bunk rooms, plus dorms reserved specially for fire department interns, who live at the station full-time for the duration of their employment, Pulvermacher said.
Not far from the dorms, there’s a workout facility stocked with strength and cardio equipment to help firefighters stay in the physical shape the job demands of them, Pulvermacher said.
“A lot of what we’re doing in here reflects the workouts required for fire, EMS and emergency services,” Pulvermacher said.
Just past the dorms, the non-private locker room features rows of lockers for firefighters and EMS personnel, plus three private bathrooms that include showers.
Because the fire station is meant to be useful for a few decades, Pulvermacher said, building private bathrooms within the locker room accommodates whatever staff the departments will have in the future, regardless of gender.
“This way, it doesn’t matter how many men or women I have on the crew that day, I can send them all to the showers after a fire and get them back in service quicker,” he said.