Something as simple as a cleaner fire truck makes a difference for North Bend firefighter Bob Venera. With a shiny truck, “you can take more pride in what you have,” and in the job you do, he says.
In six months, Venera and his fellow crew members can take more pride in shinier trucks, and shinier everything.
With construction proceeding without a hitch on the new Station 87 on Maloney Grove Avenue, local firefighters will bid farewell to the 60-year-old station, adjacent to City Hall on Second Street—and its archaic layout.
Life as a firefighter will be very different. For starters, washing a truck won’t require the rigamarole of hanging up plastic sheets and catch-basins inside bays that were never meant for wash duty—when Station 87 was built in 1947, trucks got washed outside, with nary a care for storm drains.
Built for a volunteer force, Station 87—Eastside Fire and Rescue’s oldest—wasn’t ready for what goes into fire duty today. The rules of the firefighter’s craft changed, even as the building aged.
“It was never built to have career people,” said Tom Little, a 17-year North Bend firefighter.
“The old building isn’t functional for response,” said Wes Collins, EFR’s deputy chief in charge of planning. “It doesn’t handle the vehicles very well. The roof leaks. It didn’t do well during the 2001 quake. It’s not going to hold up to another one.”
“We’ve adjusted to make it work,” said Venera, a firefighter here since the 1980s. “We’ve made do for 20 years.
“The rat symbols, hanging from the ceiling”—showing where the traps are set—“I won’t miss that at all,” Venera said. “Individual dorms will be nice. A better workout facility will be nice.”
For Little, the biggest plus is getting “a fire station that’s part of the 21st century.”
Venera and company will soon see their wish list fulfilled when the new Station 87 is completed this coming July. Contractor Kirtley-Cole Associates, LLC oversee the latter stages of construction, which began last summer and is ahead of schedule and essentially on budget.
The $4.1 million building, which was recently toured by city and fire officials, includes a laundry list of improvements over its dingy predecessor: A standalone workout room, individual dorms. A well-lit truck bay. Easy-to clean surfaces, new technology. And it’s all on one floor.
Venera said firefighters got the chance to put their own input into design, and as a result, the new 87 is very firefighter-friendly.
In the old station, firefighters had to navigate a long, steep stairwell at all hours to get to the bay.
Most stations are multiple storeys, says Venera. “This one is unique. It’s pretty well thought out.”
The station’s front door leads to a small, public room. The lobby is envisioned as a place where visitors can talk with firefighters and their blood pressure checked, and there is a public restroom.
Continuing inside, there’s a combined kitchen and living area, centered on a durable, stainless-steel-wrapped island.
Adjacent is a firefighter’s work room, where the crew can plug in computers and other devices.
The building has four restrooms and six one-person bedrooms with individual air-conditioning units. Bedrooms, offices and restrooms are insulated for sound, allowing the crew members to better rest or work.
At the old station, there are no bedrooms; crew members sleep in a big room divided by cubicles. Currently, the building houses three assigned firefighters and two paramedics.
“We’re five guys here, every day,” Venera said. In the morning, with five firefighters rising to leave and five others coming on, it makes for major pressure on the two bathrooms.
There will be new, energy-efficient appliances, and a workout room in the crew area—as opposed to a corner of the truck bay—items that make the station more consistent with the work that needs to be done, Collins said.
The new building has five full-size equipment bays, a big improvement over the current station. One of the three bays in the current station 87 is not big enough for a standard-size rescue vehicle.
Getting into that big apparatus garage is going to be easier, says Venera. The current, dark bay is like a cave on sunny days. They post a firefighter inside when they’re parking trucks to make sure nothing untoward happens.
There are special radiant heaters in the truck bay, and in the bunker gear storage room, where they can quickly dry out wet firefighter clothing.
The new station has been designed to make it easier for firefighters and vehicles to stay clean.
“It’s all hard surfaces,” said Collins, “so it can be decontaminated if a firefighter gets exposed to hazardous materials.”
A special durable floor, smooth and shiny, with a bit of grip for safety when it’s wet, covers the interior spaces.
“All these things add to firefighter safety,” Collins said.
So far, the construction company has been careful with change-order requests. The station job is three tenths of a percent over budget, about $14,000, but the project still has about $26,000 in allowances for things like soil conditions, signs and electrical work that may balance things out.
A preexisting foundation on the site had to be removed, as did a large maple tree that had grown into it. One extra cost was special drill bits for the base of a steel column that had to be moved to accommodate a door frame. The team also added the steel wrap on the kitchen island for durability.
Cost reductions in the project included the use of recycled concrete, and some hardware changes.
Michelle Langrehr, who designed the building as part of a team at TCA architects of Seattle, pointed out two key features of the building that most people who see it might not notice.
First, “how open it is to natural daylight,” she said. “You can be standing all the way back in the firefighter work area, and still see the natural daylight,” she said. It’s a far cry from today’s station.
She also points out the quick-opening four-fold doors in the apparatus bay. Unlike overhead doors, which as they roll up can be hard to spot by fire truck drivers, sometimes leading to damage to the doors and trucks, side-folding doors open in five seconds, and are always in the driver’s field of vision. They cost more to install, but pay off with less maintenance costs.
“That’s a neat thing to have,” said Langrehr.
The city, project team and EFR members tour the new building's big apparatus bay.
Inside a firefighter dorm room. The plate on the top of the wall holds an individual HVAC unit for the room.
A city webcam shows progress earlier this week on North Bend's new Station 87.
A view of the unfinished main crew living area shows the tall walls, lit by clerestory windows.
The exterior, as it looked in mid-January.