Franklin Park Volunteer Fire Co. moves into new facility
After decades of working out of a cramped, aging fire hall, Franklin Park has something to get stoked about — a new state-of-the-art fire station.
During the past several weeks, firefighters have been putting the finishing touches on the 1 1⁄2-story, 24,000-square-foot building, which is 9,000-square-feet larger than the old station.
“This building is a vast improvement over the old station, which was not worth repairing,” said Bob Jarvis, president of the Franklin Park Volunteer Fire Co.
The fire company began operating out of the new building Feb. 19.
Borough and fire company officials considered refurbishing the old station, which was built in 1949. But a study determined that the cost of replacing the roof and bringing it up to current safety codes made it more cost-effective to build a new one, Jarvis said.
“One of the most important features in the new building is that the ceiling in the main garage is 35-feet high, which provides enough room for a ventilation system that collects exhaust from vehicles when they are entering and exiting the building or need to be running during maintenance,” Jarvis said.
The ceiling in the old firehouse, which was demolished to make way for the new structure, was only 10-feet high.
“It was so low that we had to pull the trucks outside to re-pack the hoses after they were used,” Jarvis said.
Other safety features include a special room to launder firefighting suits — called turnout gear — that are exposed to carcinogens and other toxic chemicals while fighting fires. A second “clean” room will house large air tanks needed to replenish the smaller ones firefighters use when entering smoked-filled buildings.
In the past, firefighters had to drag their turnout gear outside the building and hose it down, Jarvis said.
The new firehouse also complies with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, including an elevator to access the upper level. The old building had steps at the entrance and few other features to make it easier for people with physical challenges.
Instead of simply a place to store trucks and gear, the new firehouse contains features that can be used for training, including a four-story indoor “tower” to learn how to fight fires in tall buildings. The tower also has windows similar to the ones found in apartment and commercial buildings so firefighters can practice ladder rescues from the exterior.
Unlike fire halls of the past, the new building in Franklin Park does not have a hall that is rented out for events such as receptions and bingo, which no longer represents a significant source of revenue for the volunteer fire company, Jarvis said.
Included in the new building is four dormitory-style apartments for a “live-in” program the department is developing.
“The idea is to offer college students who are interested in serving with the fire department while they are in the area attending school in exchange for a place to stay,” Jarvis said. “In addition to adding members to our roster, we'll have people at the station who can respond quickly to emergencies.”
A small lounge, a study room, a kitchen and laundry facilities are also located on the upper level near the living quarters.
A larger lounge, a commercial-style kitchen and a fitness center are located on the lower level of the building for use by the department's 65 active members.
There's also a 75-seat training room for large classes and seminars and a conference room for smaller gatherings.
The footprint of the building also was altered to correct a traffic issue along Rochester Road. In the past, motorists traveling along Rochester had a difficult time seeing the trucks leave the station because they exited from the side of the station instead of the front.
The building was designed by EPM Architecture in Bradford Woods, which has been involved in the construction of a number of fire stations, including three in the North Hills. The new building was built by Jerry Horn Construction in Franklin Park. The new facility also has an underground water collection system and other features to comply with stormwater management mandates.
The $4.8 million project is being funded by a 20-year bond issue.
“The old fire station served this community very well,” Jarvis said. “Our focus when designing the new one was to build it with quality materials so it can serve our community for many years to come.”