BY ALAN M. PETRILLO
Beaufort, North Carolina, is a small town established in 1709 and noted as the third oldest town in the state. Its downtown historic district is a blend of Roman and early American architecture, so when the Beaufort Fire Department needed a new fire station, it wanted a structure that fit in with the historic buildings nearby. Beaufort turned to Stewart-Cooper-Newell (SCN) Architects to design a fire station that fulfilled its wishes.
The Beaufort Fire Department traces its roots back to 1866. It’s a combination department currently staffed by 34 firefighters—a mix of full-time, part-time, and volunteers. The department covers 31 square miles and a population of 11,000 and handles 1,200 calls annually from two stations with three engines, a 100-foot tractor-drawn aerial , two tankers, a brush truck, a utility support vehicle, a fireboat, and two command vehicles.
IDENTIFYING THE NEED
Larry W. Fulp, Beaufort’s chief, says the new station replaced a building put up in 1968 that was designed to house only one person at a time. “The old station was 5,600 square feet, and half of that space was for truck bays,” Fulp says. “With four firefighters and two administrators on shift, we outgrew the space and looked to replace it for a number of years.”
Jim Stumbo, a principal at SCN, says his firm had done some design work for areas around Beaufort, so the fire department was familiar with its work in the area. “Beaufort sent out a request for proposals for qualifications, reviewed what they received, and we were the one they selected to design a replacement for the station,” Stumbo notes. “They wanted a design that had an old-time feel and character but would still be contemporary. And, they only wanted a single-level station yet wanted it to have the feel of a two-story building.”
SCN accomplished the two-story aesthetic to the new 12,784-square-foot station by building a tall entryway that appears to be two stories as well as by installing small windows over the apparatus bays to give them height and architectural contrast, Stumbo points out. The station has three double-deep, drive-through apparatus bays, with a mezzanine on one side. The station sits at an intersection with the town’s main street, and access to the rear of the station is off the side street.
Stumbo says SCN designed a training room off the station’s front lobby that’s accessible from both the lobby and a rear corridor. The kitchen and dining area have all stainless steel appliances, solid-surface countertops, and wood cabinetry, and a day room is off the kitchen. The floors in all three living spaces are covered in luxury vinyl tile.
Off the main corridor from the lobby is a work room, floored in porcelain tile, that leads to the apparatus bays. A public restroom is situated off the front lobby. Each individual sleeping room, of which there are six, holds bunk beds, three wardrobe cabinets, a desk, and a chair, Fulp points out. Each room has a ceiling fan and carpet on the floor. “By having the bunk beds in each sleeping room, we could house 12 firefighters if it were necessary, like when we have to call in extra staff for hurricanes,” Fulp observes. Two shower rooms and two toilet rooms are adjacent to the sleeping rooms.
Fulp says that Beaufort’s firefighters contributed a major element to the new station. “The dining room table with the department’s emblem of a Sea Dog, which is a bulldog with the tail of a dolphin, was built by our firefighters,” he points out. “It’s a circular wooden table that has a base made from an old fire hydrant.”
The exterior of Beaufort’s new station is a combination of brick, split-face concrete block, and horizontal metal panels, Stumbo notes. “The exterior finish emulates the downtown structures,” he says, “and the combination of materials breaks up the mass of the building and complements the older structures downtown along the Intercoastal Waterway.” The station has both a low slope and flat roof, he adds, with the apparatus bays, training room, and sleeping wing covered by single-slope insulated metal roof panels and a flat roof covering the spaces between the apparatus bays and the living area wings. Cost of the Beaufort station was $3,177,000.
Stumbo says SCN tries to design training aids into all its new stations, which it did for Beaufort. “There is a training platform in the apparatus area, and there are double doors in the upper section across from the training platform, so firefighters can rig a high line across the bays,” he says. Access to the doors is by a stairway to the mezzanine, which also has a training hatch leading into the tool room below for training with a tripod and confined space work. “Designing in training aids is relatively easy to accomplish and is inexpensive,” Stumbo says.
Fulp believes that Beaufort’s new station blends in well with the rest of the town’s historic buildings. “The new station mirrors some of the businesses and buildings that are in our historic district along the waterfront,” he says. “We didn’t want a commercial-looking structure, and SCN did a fantastic job with the design. It’s been well received by our firefighters and the community.”
F.I.E.R.O. Fire Station Design Award Winner
Escambia County (FL) Fire Department, Perdido Key Fire Station 19
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.