Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department Blends Stations into Neighborhoods
The Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department currently has 58 operational fire stations, with a 59th under construction, and a total of 75 buildings under its Facilities Management Section of the Support Services Division, including a large administration building, a huge firefighting training facility, and a Special Operations/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training facility.
When it comes to siting and constructing fire stations, the department is extremely cognizant of the character of the neighborhood the station will be placed in and the concerns of neighbors who usually want the fire station to complement existing structures in the area.
Jim Zwerg, architect for the Phoenix Fire Department, says that the context of the architecture of a fire station “is to do it like what the neighborhood is. We like to blend our stations into the neighborhoods that they will be living in, which has proven historically to have the neighborhoods be much more receptive to a fire station nearby.” Zwerg adds, “My job is to be sure we get the floorplan that we need to accomplish our mission and then leave it to the architects and designers the department hires to make the structure itself complement the other buildings in the area.”
Zwerg says that Phoenix Station 59, at 65th Avenue and Buckeye Road, is a large station meant to support operations at a nearby tank farm. “The tank farm had been expanding, which meant that our existing station had outlived its efficiency because it was too small to hold the apparatus needed to respond to a tank farm emergency,” Zwerg says. “We needed a full-size, four-bay station for equipment and the expansion of apparatus. At the same time, the department was pursuing pod-type skid units on flatbed trucks, so we wanted an additional four bay building behind the station for that equipment and storage.”
LEA Architects got the contract to design and build Phoenix Station 59. Larry Enyart, LEA’s president, says, “We were hired to design the station and get Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, and once we settled on the design, we decided to try for LEED Platinum, which the completed station was awarded.”
Enyart says the modern architecture of Phoenix Station 59 responds to the desert environment as well as the surrounding industrial area. “The cylindrical form of the fire station’s physical fitness room, cladded on the exterior with insulated metal wall paneling, with translucent glass fin fenestration, metaphorically speaks to the fire station’s primary mission requirement as a first responder serving the industrial context of the large surrounding fuel farm structures,” Enyart points out. In addition, he notes, “The use of natural materials for both buildings—the station and the pod storage building—including locally manufactured integral color ground face concrete block units, the prevalent use of steel, and perforated metal, further relates to the industrial buildings near the site.”
Zwerg says Phoenix Station 59 is 15,078 square feet in size; the pod storage building is 5,677 square feet. The station has four double-deep drive-through bays, 16 dorm rooms, a full kitchen, a dining room, a day room, and an exercise room, and its west façade is protected from the desert sun by a continuous horizontal steel shade canopy over the apparatus bay doors, while the main entrance is protected by a deep roof overhang and a vertical shade screen of perforated metal.
With Phoenix Station 72, Zwerg says the department first determined the station location, acquired the property, and then turned to its Operations and Deployment divisions to determine what apparatus would be located in the new station. “Operations and Deployment determined we needed an engine at Station 72 and also moved a heavy rescue squad there,” he notes. “We then determined the station would house four personnel for the engine and five for the squad, including two captains, and decided on 10 dorm rooms for a maximum of two five-person crews. The kitchen, dining area, bathrooms, and all the other spaces were specified in our design guidebook.”
Bruce R. Scott, principal at HDA Architects, says HDA was selected to design the station, and the biggest issue it faced was the site and limiting the disturbance as much as possible. “There’s a 200-foot view corridor along the street frontage from the right of way back into the site that couldn’t be disturbed,” Scott points out. “We tried to design the station to fit the desert surroundings, so we used natural materials like adobe brick for some veneer and site walls, and also natural stone on the building for accents and to tie into the natural setting.”
Zwerg notes that the 200-foot Cave Creek Road scenic corridor caused Station 72 to be set back farther on the site. “The apparatus apron is small and narrow and faces onto Cave Creek Road,” he says, “and for the back entrance, the city purchased three acres from a neighboring church and paid for half of the rear entry driveway that has a median separating the station side from the church drive.”
Matthew A. Gorman, principal architect at Arrington Watkins Architects, says that trends in station design styles depend greatly on the location of the station. “Generally, people want a fire station to fit comfortably into its surroundings, so we take cues for local area buildings that are already there when considering a design,” Gorman says.
Arrington Watkins designed and built Phoenix Fire Station 56 in an upscale neighborhood in a Tuscan-villa style to enable it to fit into a 10,000-home master planned community. “We were handed a color and material palette to choose from,” Gorman notes. “We’re pleased the fire station turned out to be a striking classical looking station in stone with a stone rotunda and with an attractive color palette.”
Zwerg says that Station 56 uses a mission tile roof over its four apparatus bays with bifold doors, a stick-on stone and stucco exterior, 15 dorm rooms for firefighters and officers, the usual assortment of living and working areas, and a community room with a separate public entrance and public bathrooms.
Zwerg adds that Phoenix Fire has three types of station layouts. “Our typical infill station is two to three bays, eight to 12 dorm rooms, and 10,000 to 13,000 square feet,” he says. “Our standard station has four bays and 15 dorm rooms and occupies 15,000 to 18,000 square feet. Our battalion stations are the same as our standard station with an added battalion suite, with total square footage running between 18,000 and 20,000.”
STATIONS 57 AND 58
Phoenix Station 57 is a four-bay, 15-dorm-room station in the Leveen area of the city that houses an engine, a rescue, and a brush truck in a ranch-style design that fits into a semirural/residential neighborhood, Zwerg points out. “It was designed by Lisa Foreman Architects to sit on three acres and has stone columns, a stucco exterior with stone wainscoting over insulated foam concrete block, honed concrete floors, and a corrugated metal roof,” he says. “The apparatus bays have bifold doors; there are offices and an exercise room, a training room, and a community room; and it fits nicely into the surrounding area.”
Also in the Leveen rural ranch area is Station 58, a one-story, three-bay, eight-dorm-room station with a mixture of flat and pitched roofs over a metal frame and skin body. Designed by LEA Architects, Station 58 fits easily into the character of the surrounding area, Zwerg says, and houses an engine, a tanker (tender), and a brush truck.
Phoenix Fire still has some metal Butler building stations in locations around the city, such as Station 45 in an older residential area, Zwerg says. Station 45 has three apparatus bays and eight dorms and occupies 7,500 square feet. “The structure, which was originally a temporary station that turned into a permanent one, uses concrete masonry units as wainscoting over its metal siding,” he says, “but echoes the character of the area it covers.”
Phoenix Station 8 at 11th Street and Van Buren Street is a five-bay station with 15 dorm rooms that was built in 1988 and remodeled in 2018, Zwerg says. The station, designed by LEA Architects, sits in an older residential area adjacent to the city’s downtown. It houses an engine, a FEMA squad, a rescue, a ladder, a tactical rescue team support truck, and a hazmat pickup truck. Floors are calcium silicate burnished that make them “hard like marble,” Zwerg says, and the exterior is jumbo red brick and concrete masonry units. Interior walls are masonry, while the roof is flat over the bays and pitched standing seam metal roofing over the living and working areas.