The Santa Cruz River runs through the center of the Tubac (AZ) Fire District, putting 51 percent of the area’s population on the west side of the river and 49 percent on the east side. Before a bridge was built over the river, Tubac fire apparatus had to ford the river from the west at low water crossings, but during some months of the year high water prevented that option, meaning a long response to the south through a neighboring fire district.
The solution, says Kevin Keeley, Tubac Fire Department’s chief, was to build identical fire stations on each side of the Santa Cruz. “We hired Breckenridge Group to give us the scope of what we needed so we could go to the voters for a bond election,” Keeley says. “The Breckenridge people went through our community taking photos of the architecture and came up with renderings of buildings that were extremely functional and fit nicely into this Southwestern community. The $15 million bond passed comfortably and Breckenridge Group was hired as the architect for two stations.”
Klindt D. Breckenridge, president of Breckenridge Group, notes that the fire district wanted to engage the community in the stations, so his firm included a community room in the first station built, Tubac Station 3. “The design of the stations also had to blend with the overall look of the community, had to be sustainable with low water and energy consumption, and be made of ‘firefighter-proof’ materials and finishes,” Breckenridge says.
Tubac Station 3 is 9,200 square feet, has three double-deep, drive-through apparatus bays, five dorm rooms, a kitchen, a day room, two unisex restrooms for firefighters, a communications room, EMS storage room, mechanical and storage areas, the community room, and a restroom for visitors. Off the apparatus bays are a hose room, work room, decon room, laundry and turnout gear room, and an SCBA room.
Each of the dorm rooms has a single bed, desk, and three lockers, Breckenridge says. “We chose unisex restrooms because the unisex concept generates a smaller footprint as there are no urinals,” he notes. “In the kitchen, we have solid-surface counter tops, wood-faced cabinetry, a high-grade propane gas range, and a lot of counter space.”
Breckenridge says Tubac Station 3 “uses materials, forms, and colors indicative of the architectural flavor of the region.” Sustainable elements include low-flow plumbing fixtures, he notes, native landscaping and water harvesting to conserve water, cool roof materials and high-performance windows to conserve energy, and photovoltaic roof panels to generate on-site renewable energy from the sun.
Tubac Station 4 is nearly identical to Station 3, but without the community room. Keeley points out that because Station 4 sits on a small site of only 1.94 acres, it was necessary to flip the floor plan 180 degrees so Station 4 is a mirror-image of Station 3. Each station cost the district $2.1 million, Keeley says, “both finished ahead of schedule and under budget.”
Tubac Station 3 and Station 4 each house a Ferrara Freightliner engine with a 1,250-gpm pump, 1,000-gallon water tank, and 20-gallon foam tank; a Type 6 Ford-F550 wildland engine; and an ambulance. Two older Tubac fire stations house a Ferrara engine, a Pierce engine, two 2,000-gallon water tenders (tankers), a Type 3 wildland engine, ambulances, and a reserve engine and tender.
Tubac’s fire district encompasses 150 square miles, while its ambulance district is 300 square miles. The village of Tubac, which brands itself as “Where Art and History Meet,” has about 1,200 residents and 100 businesses.
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.