The Grand Rapids Fire Department anxiously awaits the move into its new fire hall on June 1.
The new facility, located on 11th Street Southeast, will feature several updates designed to improve safety for the Fire Department and surrounding community.
Fire Chief Travis Cole said the hall’s design meets modern safety standards and gives the department a space to store all its equipment under one roof.
One of the most obvious improvements will be drive-through garage bays. This allows trucks to enter and leave the facility quickly and safely. Currently, the trucks must cross a pedestrian sidewalk before pulling out onto NW Fifth Street. Returning to the station requires backing the trucks into the building.
“The new hall allows us to have a nice apron in front of the fire hall where we can pull trucks out, have our lights on, and have more visibility before we actually go out onto a road,” Cole said.
After leaving the premises, trucks will be able to turn onto 11th Street and proceed to either Pokegama Avenue or the Airport Road.
The fire department will also be able to store all their equipment in the new building. Currently, they need to utilize three separate city facilities: the fire hall, the airport, and public works.
One of the biggest concerns for firefighters today is cancer. Firefighters are susceptible to cancer at a higher rate than most professions because they are often exposed to toxins and carcinogens. The new fire hall is designed to have a “hot zone” where trucks and equipment that may have been contaminated are stored. Equipment can be moved to a “warm zone” where it can be cleaned or decontaminated. The third area is a clean space that contains meeting rooms, offices, and a kitchen. The clean space is separated from any possible contaminants.
Washing gear takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour after a fire call, depending on exposure and how much equipment they use.
“It’s a nice feature to be able to isolate those carcinogens, dirt, and soot from our clean space,” Cole said.
With the new facility being located on the south end of town, the Fire Department often gets asked how they will be able to respond to a call on the north end of town if there is a train derailment. A railroad line divides downtown Grand Rapids and could cutoff half of the city if a train were to derail.
“We didn’t forget about that,” Cole said. “We looked at our neighboring departments and we have a very good agreement with those cities, such as Trout Lake and Cohasset. If there was an unfortunate accident and a train derailment, our neighbors on the north side can help with that protection until we can get our trucks through.”
City Administrator Tom Pagel said all concerns were taken into consideration when planning the new fire hall.
“We really operate as one department with our neighbors,” Pagel said. “I think this really positions the community well from a safety perspective.”
The City of Grand Rapids will be able to utilize the hall for other functions as well. The meeting rooms can be used by other agencies and the hall will also be used as a polling place.
The current fire hall was built in 1968. Although it served its purpose well, the department has outgrown the building. Firefighters need to squeeze between trucks to get to the hall and often need to turn sideways to fit through hallways while wearing gear.
“We have a lot of constraints in our space, which is a safety issue.” Cole said. “Our future hall will definitely help with those issues.”