Changes for the Modern-Day Fire House

Changes within the fire industry have always been present. The need and requirements for safety, strength and security have never been stronger than today. Along with that, the buildings we are constructing have come a long way with adapting to the changing needs of the fire department. Three of the major changes in the fire industry are; separation between gear and trucks, the size of the equipment needed, and the need to house full-time firemen in all city and rural areas.

Some of the first fire stations organized in North America date back to 1650. These members were only volunteers and were asked to roam the city looking for fires. Two hundred years ago larger cities like Cincinnati, Ohio and Jamestown, Virginia started to house government run departments in their cities to help protect their patrons. Today, nearly everyone has a cell phone and can call, text, or in some way notify the local department of a fire brewing. During those early years, fire trucks were small and nimble to maneuver the hectic streets.​


These trucks oftentimes had more weight on the trucks than the gross weight of the vehicle. As time continued to pass, the trucks grew in size, stature and ability. For example, what was once a single handle for holding on to the truck as firefighters went to the fire, is now a full seat harness belt for its driver and riders.

Many stations that are being renovated today have the same issues, the overhead doors are too small and the new trucks won’t fit. In commonplace 1950-1980s construction, 12-foot-tall doors were standard, typical, and not thought of as needing to be taller. Today’s doors are 14 feet tall and have nearly 30 inches of clearance between door frame and bumper as the truck enters the building. With these heights and clearances, the fire industry will be well covered for larger apparatus for the foreseeable future. Vertical clearances when inside the building have also been a growing trend. Having the ability to stand on the truck to service hoses, bulbs, or for cleaning is a task that can be done inside the bays if a building is tall enough to support a fireman walking on the top. With 18 foot eave buildings and steep roof pitches, this clearance is obtainable.

Tests are showing that separation of firefighting gear from firefighting apparatus, in a non-active roll, helps to keep the gear cleaner and prolongs the durability. Of course proper cleaning and maintenance will also help considerably. Firemen are more cognized today about their continued health because they want a future that doesn’t involve “I told you so” when visiting the doctor. More construction is featuring enclosed locker rooms and gear storage. Keeping the two entities of gear and equipment separate takes space and money, but in the life of a fireman it is a low cost on equipment and personal self-health. When considering renovation or new construction, think about where the best served equipment room would be for your station. Call a trusted Design-Build General Contractor that has experience with station renovations.

As more talk and consideration is happening for paid fireman, bedrooms are essential when it comes to building a new station. Most stations now are planning for at least three bedrooms in their new or renovated station. Many stations that need renovating have adapted bedrooms from closets or retracted office space for the use of three bunkbeds. The growing desire and need to respond faster to calls when the distress bells rings are growing among rural counties. While most urban city stations currently have paid full-time firemen, some of those stations are also in the same shape, with makeshift bedrooms. One of the most important features to have is a sprinkler system in all the bedrooms. In many cases, as previously mentioned, bedrooms are not sprinklered due to a conversion from office to bed. However, in modern construction, all sleeping bodies must be protected by use of sprinkler, fire walls and approved egress.

Like technology, the fire industry has grown in the last 25 years just as much as it grew in the last 250 years. Bigger, faster, and cleaner is the name of the game for most products, and the fire industry is not different. The need for bigger equipment leads to bigger buildings that have faster doors and require more cleaning. It’s a relevant cycle in our lives today and one that is likely not going to slow or decrease in expectation. If you are in need of a bigger station, new construction or renovation, contact a trusted Design-Build General Contractor.

Goosie Kennedy is a Project Manager for D. R. Reynolds Company, Inc., a Design-Build General Contractor.

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