By Alan M. Petrillo
When Perlman Architects of Arizona won the contract to design and build a new fire station for the Sun City (AZ) Fire and Medical Department, it faced a substantial challenge in maximizing the square footage of the new building on a relatively small site of just under one acre. But Perlman Architects was up to the challenge and produced a station two stories high with three double-deep drive-through bays and an additional back-in bay for a future battalion chief or reserve apparatus.
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Ken Powers, principal at Perlman Architects, says his design team and the fire department worked closely with Maricopa County and the city of Youngtown to secure the necessary variances, modifying the setbacks and overall height requirements, allowing the facility to be built on the lot chosen by the department. “It’s more of an urban site,” Powers observes, “and we finished with zero property line setback on two sides of the station. But, we were able to give the department 16,248 square feet of usable space.”
Gerrald Adams, Perlman Architects project director, says on the first floor of the station on the Michigan Avenue side is a secured lobby, public restroom, a community/training room, watch room, captain’s offices, report writing office, ambulance billing office, kitchen, dining room, and dayroom. “A large fitness room is located with an exterior access to the patio area and a secured back yard,” he adds. “On the support side of the three apparatus bays are all of the workspaces, starting with a decontamination room, PPE and turnout storage, SCBA room, and compressor room.” Stairs lead to a training mezzanine with two manholes covered with fiberglass lids, a removable safety rail for ladder and bailout training, and bulk storage space.
Ron Deadman, Sun City Fire’s chief, says his department was one of the busiest communities in Arizona in 2019, running 15,000 calls with three paramedic engines and one paramedic ladder. “We cover 17 square miles and a population of more than 47,000 and have automatic mutual aid agreements with several neighboring departments,” Deadman points out. “The department employs more than 100 fire prevention, suppression, EMS, investigation, administration, and maintenance personnel. Daily emergency response consists of 27 firefighters, while volunteers staff our four ambulances.”
Adams notes that the second floor of the station has 12 private gender-neutral dorms, six unisex restrooms, a clean laundry, large study/quiet dayroom, two sets of response stairs, and elevator access. “Each room has operable windows for natural light and ventilation for each firefighter,” he notes.
Powers points out that while the project didn’t pursue LEED certification, the design and construction team incorporated environmentally responsible building practices through site development, energy conservation, water conservation, and by providing improved indoor air quality and infectious disease control throughout the station. “The station has interior and exterior LED lighting; low-flow plumbing fixtures; and high performance glazing, insulation, and HVAC systems,” he says. “Natural daylighting was maximized, including clerestory windows at the apparatus bays, and xeriscape landscaping, and a high-efficiency irrigation system minimizes water use and includes a water monitoring and tracking control system.”
Deadman says that the new station has security and fire alarm systems, sprinklers, public and private WiFi systems, and a US Digital Designs Phoenix G2 station alerting system. “The Phoenix G2 system allows each dorm to be programmed based on which unit the firefighter is assigned to,” he says. “When alerted, dimmable red lights come on in the dorm rooms being called out, and also in the hallways and stairs leading to the apparatus bays.”
The station also has an automatic bay exhaust system that’s activated by the movement of the bay doors and interlocked with the make-up air system, says Adams, providing a push-pull design that creates the required air changes for every response and return. “The system design doesn’t require any actions by the firefighters, which guarantees the system is used,” Adams says. “And, the selection of four-fold bay doors decreases response times, and reduces maintenance costs.”
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.