The Violet Township (OH) Fire Department provides fire and emergency medical services to a 41-square-mile service area in the northwest corner of Fairfield county from three stations—with one located in the historic downtown of Old Pickerington. That station was the department’s original downtown firehouse and had restricted apparatus bay door sizes, tight sleeping quarters, and almost no storage.
Mike Little, Violet Township’s chief, says the department and township knew they needed to replace the old station. “The maximum height on the apparatus bay doors was nine feet, and the width was narrower than normal too,” Little points out. “It was built as a volunteer station in 1953, and we had converted office space into bunk rooms that could sleep six in tight quarters upstairs next to a day room, while the apparatus bays occupied the ground floor. There was no room for expansion of the station.” Little notes the department has 55 full-time and 20 part-time paid firefighters and handles 6,500 runs a year.
Violet Township engaged KZF Design to design and build a replacement station in the old downtown are but required KZF to give the new structure the look and feel of an old small town village, according to Mark Shoemaker, director of public facilities for KZF Design. Shoemaker says that Violet Township, the city of Pickerington, and the Chamber of Commerce worked to put together an L-shaped site that included an adjoining park right of way and a Chamber-owned property. “Violet Township got the city to vacate the park right of way and purchased the Chamber property, demolished the old fire station, and agreed to lease office space to the Chamber in the new station,” Shoemaker says. “The fire department maintained a portion of the old park right of way, which allowed us to create a pedestrian pathway from the main street at the front of the new station to the park.”
Shoemaker says the new station’s north side fronts on West Columbus Avenue and is two stories high, while the south side faces Park Alley, which has an eight-foot grade level lower than the Columbus Avenue side of the building, allowing the apparatus bays to be located in the back of the station in a floor below the level of the front ground floor entrance. “We had to meet the city’s architectural guidelines and also picked up detailing from the old Carnegie Library building next door and incorporated that brick and stone accenting into the new station. The West Columbus Avenue side is a combination of brick and wood siding, while the second floor dorm area has a balcony because almost half of the buildings on West Columbus are wood frame structures with balconies.”
Little says that one of the concerns Violet Township had with its new station was enough space to house its firefighters as well as provide them with ample living and storage space. “On the second floor of the station, we have 10 individual dorm rooms with curtain closures, each with a single bed, three lockers, and a small desk,” Little notes. “Nearby are four unisex toilet/shower rooms.” Little points out that the dorm rooms don’t have doors or cable hookups. “We looked at other fire stations and talked with our staff, and most felt that putting a door on a dorm room creates a situation where firefighters are not congregating together,” he says. “We don’t want them stuck in their rooms; it’s important that they have the most opportunity to hang out with each other.”
The second floor also has a kitchen, dining and day room, and a deck off the dining area with a view of the park. “A couple of windows in the day room look down to the apparatus bays which gives an openness to the day room,” Little says, “and two other day room windows are located in another wall.” In the middle of the second floor is an elevator, as well as a stair that wraps around an integral fire pole.
On the first floor of the new station are the shift officer’s office with a bay window that looks out onto the apparatus bays, a physical fitness room, a training room, two offices, a small conference room leased to the Chamber of Commerce, and two public rest rooms. Little notes that the building has an electronic security system, so the chamber staff only has access to their leased offices and the small conference room.
The L-shaped station features three 55-foot-long back-in apparatus bays facing Lockville Road on the east, Shoemaker says, and a 40-foot back-in bay that opens onto Park Alley. “The apparatus use Park Alley to return to the station, and there is plenty of room there to allow them to back into their bays,” he notes. “The apparatus bay level also has a mechanical room, decon room, turnout gear storage, SCBA storage, and work room.” Total square footage in the new station is 18,875 square feet, and the station cost $6.1 million.
On a mezzanine over the apparatus bays, KZF Design built in a training area for laddering, rappelling, technical rope rescue, and confined space training. It also designed a combination hose drying and training tower with an open stair that firefighters can rappel down through the middle and give them roof access so they can extend hoselines up the stair to the roof. Firefighters also can rappel on the exterior of the tower as well as train with ladders on it.
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.