Buckeye, Arizona, is a community that has a huge footprint with 400 square miles in the city of Buckeye that makes up the majority of the 600 square miles the Buckeye (AZ) Fire Department covers with six stations. Each station houses a 1,500-gpm engine, two of the stations have brush trucks, the hazmat vehicle is at Station 5, and a 100-foot TDA (tiller drawn aerial) that has extrication equipment and the technical rescue support vehicle are at Station 3, which is co-manned. Four of Buckeye’s stations were permanent, while Stations 3 and 5 were temporary. It was at Station 3’s temporary location where the most problems occurred.
Bob Costello, Buckeye’s chief, says the area grew so fast that the growth outpaced the ability of the fire department to construct new stations to respond to the expansion. “Buckeye Station 3 was housed in temporary quarters in an old Caterpillar Corp. testing facility,” Costello says. “It was a 45-year-old shop building that had been converted to living quarters for the firefighters, working spaces, and apparatus bays. But it was an old, run-down building that had a lot of environmental problems—and by that I mean problems with critters because we are in the desert.”
The critters Costello refers to are snakes—western diamondback rattlesnakes as well as other varieties and a pair of large adult owls. “We found rattlesnakes inside the building in the living and working areas and often outside the doors of the firehouse,” Costello says. “The two big owls were roosting in the rafters and would go out, catch prey, and bring it live into the firehouse. Then they would eat the prey and drop the bones on the apparatus floor. The fire department really needed to move that station.”
Beyond the issues of the old structure not being entirely suited to a firehous, and the critters populating the temporary station, Perlman Architects of Arizona, the firm charged with getting a new Station 3 built, faced other planning and design challenges. “From a site planning perspective, the site was small—less than two acres—and in a curved, triangular shape,” says Ken Powers, a principal at Perlman Architects. “Also, the site is located in the Verrado master planned community, and the developer has high design standards for its communities, with extensive design guidelines that have to be considered.”
Powers says he worked hand in hand with the developer and came up with two different elevation styles for the firehouse: one a brick structure and the other a Spanish mission style. The community chose the brick design as one that gave the structure a small town feel, yet made an iconic statement because the station site is on a prominent corner on one of Verrado’s major roads. “We were able to incorporate a tower element into the station, which the community has told us gives it a grandiose feel,” Powers observes.
Buckeye wanted a sustainable fire station, Powers says, and the finished Station No. 3 was awarded a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold designation. “We were able to get to gold through an energy-efficient light package, low water use fixtures, a 50-kW photovoltaic (PV) system of covered parking, solar hot water heating, using local building materials, and designing a very efficient building envelope,” Powers points out.
Costello says the main floor of the two-story station houses four drive-through apparatus bays, three double-deep, and the fourth 1.75 deep, which houses the battalion chief assigned to the station. The kitchen and dining area are on the first floor in the center of the building, and there are two bunks downstairs in the chief’s quarters. The first floor features terrazzo flooring, stainless steel appliances, and wood cabinetry.
Upstairs, Perlman designed a dozen individual bunk rooms, each of which has one bed, a desk, and three country-club-sized lockers for the three shifts. The beds are on raised platforms with three linen drawers underneath, one for each shift, and have extended head boards with a number of electrical and USB outlets. Five unisex bathrooms adjoin the bunk room area. Costello points out that access to the second floor of the station is restricted to on-duty crews only.
Costello says that all of Buckeye’s fire stations have decon facilities located off the apparatus bays. “Firefighters can go directly to that area on return from a call and decon PPE and SCBA,” he notes. “There’s also a turnout gear storage room off the apparatus room. Each firefighter has two sets of turnouts, so when they return from a fire call, their PPE is bagged and sent for cleaning, while the second set is brought into use. For the co-manned Station 3, the crews have three sets of gear, one for the engine, one for the aerial, and the third for backup.”
Powers points out that a unique element of designing Buckeye Station 3 was that Perlman got to work with an area college art program. “We worked with them to incorporate public art tile mosaic work on the hardscaping pavement leading to the building, and on some of the benches outside,” he says.
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.