Petrillo, The Fire Station, The Station Articles

Furnishing a Fire Station

Issue 1 and Volume 22.

By Alan M. Petrillo

After fire departments have a new fire station built or an older station renovated, they are faced with the issue of furnishing it to make it a usable place where firefighters live and work.

The types of furnishings that fire departments choose for their new or refurbished stations run the gamut of practical, functional, and robust furniture and furnishings aimed at making the fire stations comfortable living spaces.

1 Mackenzie Architecture outfitted the community room at the City of Buckley (WA) Fire Department with tables and chairs often used for conferences and training. (Photos 1-4 courtesy of Mackenzie Architecture.)
1 Mackenzie Architecture outfitted the community room at the City of Buckley (WA) Fire Department with tables and chairs often used for conferences and training. (Photos 1-4 courtesy of Mackenzie Architecture.)

Guiding Departments

Ken Newell, senior principal, Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects, says that furnishings generally fall under a furniture, fixtures, and equipment contract and are typically purchased by the owner of the station or a third party designated by them. “When we design a station, we would show where the various furnishings would fit,” Newell says, “and the owner would use that station planning guide to go out and purchase furnishings.”

Such furnishings would include all furniture for the day room, kitchen, offices, bunk rooms, as well as mobile turnout gear lockers, additional refrigerators, information technology equipment, and loose audio-video equipment, Newell adds.

2 The day room furniture at the City of Buckley (WA) Fire Department consists of comfortable chairs in several groupings.
2 The day room furniture at the City of Buckley (WA) Fire Department consists of comfortable chairs in several groupings.

Bob Mitchell, principal at Mitchell Associates Architects, says he recommends that fire departments purchase “robust and not high-concept furniture. With couches, chairs, and recliners, look at the manufacturer’s literature for the specifications and see what kind and type of construction is under the fabric.”

Mitchell also recommends that fire departments avoid purchasing furniture that is covered in cloth fabric. “You want to choose a fabric that doesn’t provide an area where germs can flourish and that can be readily cleaned,” he says. “Use Naugahyde-type fabrics that have a urethane finish that feels and acts like leather but can be cleaned and disinfected very easily.”

3 Office furniture in the report room (shown) and other offices at the Hillsboro (OR) Fire Department was furnished by Mackenzie Architecture.
3 Office furniture in the report room (shown) and other offices at the Hillsboro (OR) Fire Department was furnished by Mackenzie Architecture.

Kim Doyle, project manager and interior designer for Mackenzie Architecture, says that no fire station can be called typical when it comes to furnishings because each is a little different-from how it is funded to who chooses and procures the furniture. “We always include a schematic diagram of how furniture might fit in a fire station we design,” Doyle points out. “The fire department can use that schematic as a starting point to talk with staff about the bunk areas, offices, and day rooms.”

Doyle adds that Mackenzie will help design and vend the firehouse furniture if a department so desires. “We’ll show them what we’ve done in the past, take them to different dealers to show them the types of furniture available on the market, then help them write specs and get bids out before narrowing it down to one vendor,” she says.

4 The Hood River (OR) Fire Department chose to have a custom table featuring the department’s logo on it built for its firehouse kitchen.
4 The Hood River (OR) Fire Department chose to have a custom table featuring the department’s logo on it built for its firehouse kitchen.

When a department is remodeling or renovating a fire station, it sometimes chooses to use some existing furniture in the renovated space, Doyle says. “In that case, we will evaluate that furniture for them, and help place it in the building, along with getting additional new furniture,” she notes.

Leslee O’Kelly, regional sales manager for Butler Human Services, says that when fire departments get the money for furnishing a station, they need to spend it wisely because fire stations are the firefighters’ homes. “Many departments have a collaborative nature of involving firefighters in the decisions of what furnishings will be in the station,” she observes.

5 Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects furnished this chief’s office with solid wood furniture built for its durability as well as appearance. (Photos 5-6 courtesy of Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects.)
5 Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects furnished this chief’s office with solid wood furniture built for its durability as well as appearance. (Photos 5-6 courtesy of Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects.)

Common Rooms

The day room, where firefighters spend a great deal of time, is an area that deserves close attention, O’Kelly says. “The seating has to be comfortable and give a good view of the television, which usually is mounted on a wall,” she says. “Some fire stations will have a day room full of recliners, while others go for chairs and couches.”

In day rooms, Newell points out that studies have shown that couches don’t last as long as recliners. “If we are told the day room is for 10 firefighters, we make sure it will hold 10 recliners,” he says. “We design the room for every recliner to be in the open, laid-out position but still allow people to move around it.”

6 The open-concept kitchen and day room of this station furnished by Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects blend the furnishings of the two rooms into one large living space.
6 The open-concept kitchen and day room of this station furnished by Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects blend the furnishings of the two rooms into one large living space.

O’Kelly notes that Butler has created two different styles of furniture, both wood frame and fully upholstered, that are timeless yet current and comfortable. “We try to help departments in their decisions on fabric selection too,” she says. “We often use a fabric called Crypton™ that’s used a lot in health care settings because it can be wiped off easily and resists germs.”

Doyle notes departments generally look for rugged furniture that is heavy duty and can withstand the test of time. “Often a fire department will have a dining table custom built for the station, and it usually has the department logo on it,” Doyle says. “We also are seeing a lot of technology being integrated into day rooms and offices, from alerting systems to televisions to smart boards, and with WiFi available throughout the station.”

7 Three bunks with storage below them highlight this bunk room. (Photos 7-8 courtesy of Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects.)
7 Three bunks with storage below them highlight this bunk room. (Photos 7-8 courtesy of Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects.)

Newell says his company recommends using “heavy-duty, high-quality, steel case furniture that is as fire-resistant as possible. While desks and chairs get a lot of use, recliners, couches, and other chairs get much heavier use, so they have to be as robust as possible.” Newell usually puts together a performance specification for the furniture that will go into a new station that a department can use to see if the furniture it is considering meets the standards needed.

Bunk Rooms

In bunk rooms, Mitchell says, “You’ll want to have mattresses whose seams do not have welting so you can eliminate the places where germs and other things can harbor. Make sure the bed frames are solid, but if you use tubular steel, all the openings should be plugged.”

8 Training room furniture typically is chosen for its durability and ruggedness to withstand hard use.
8 Training room furniture typically is chosen for its durability and ruggedness to withstand hard use.

As far as bunk room beds are concerned, O’Kelly says many fire departments choose metal bed frames with bedbug-resistant mattresses, although some departments prefer wood-framed beds. “We make a captain’s bed that has a higher frame height and three lockable storage units underneath for linens,” she points out. “We also make full and half-size wardrobes and can custom manufacture them either higher or narrower, depending on the department’s needs. All can be made lockable.”

In bunk rooms, most departments choose the extra-large-size twin bed, which is larger than a standard twin, with more expensive mattresses, Newell says. Some departments outfit bunk rooms for hot sheeting, which is one bed and three sets of linens, while others choose to go with cold sheeting, or three beds and three sets of linens. “But, cold sheeting means the cost of extra beds and the extra square footage needed to hold them,” Newell observes. “And, bunk rooms usually have access to three wardrobe lockers, either under the bed or along a wall.”

9 Wood-frame furniture with easily cleaned fabric coverings is often used in community areas of fire stations. (Photo courtesy of Butler Human Services
9 Wood-frame furniture with easily cleaned fabric coverings is often used in community areas of fire stations. (Photo courtesy of Butler Human Services.)

Mitchell notes that lockers can be purchased as standalones or be built into the bunk room walls. “We like to spec lockers made with phenolic (layered plastics about 3⁄8 inch thick) that are very robust, difficult to break, come in hundreds of finishes, and last a very long time,” he says. “And with bunk room beds, we like a bed on legs that we can see under and keep clean, which is why we don’t like to put lockers under beds.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.

10 This twin bed features three lockable compartments underneath that can be used to store linens or personal belongings. (Photo courtesy of Butler Human Services
10 This twin bed features three lockable compartments underneath that can be used to store linens or personal belongings. (Photo courtesy of Butler Human Services.)