Tempe (AZ) Fire Medical Rescue Department had a station location study performed that determined the department needed a fire station located in the southern part of the city, which would bring the city’s total number of fire stations to seven. The department’s call volume wasn’t excessive in the area, but it was growing, and the demands of the Phoenix metropolitan area’s automatic mutual aid system meant the department needed a presence in South Tempe.
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“When we consider a new fire station, we look at two main areas,” says Anthony Butch, Tempe’s deputy chief, “to improve response times in order to better protect and service our citizens and for firefighter safety where the station is built to protect them.” Butch says the department currently has 211 personnel, which includes 164 career firefighters, as well as civilian paramedics and EMTs riding its ambulances. The department responds to 30,000 calls annually, which Butch notes is increasing at a rate of four percent a year, with eight engines, two aerial platforms, two ladder tenders, one heavy rescue squad, a low acuity medic vehicle, a battalion truck, and four ALS ambulances.
Butch says that the site chosen for the new station is on land in a neighborhood park, “which gave us the opportunity to engage the community in the process.” Tempe’s population is 182,000, which doubles in the daytime because of people coming to work in the city and the students at Arizona State University. “Because land is at a premium in Tempe, we were pleased to find land available in the park and worked with the neighborhood to make good concessions and agreements so that the fire station got built, and the city revitalized the park for the community,” he says.
Matthew Gorman, principal architect at Arrington Watkins Architects, says his firm was awarded the contract to design and build Tempe Fire Station 7 after responding to an RFP. Once the city settled on the 1½-acre site in Estrada Park, Arrington Watkins faced a big challenge. “The park is a big retention basin for the surrounding home development,” Gorman points out. “The original park was 8½ acres, and to take out the 1½ acres for the fire station meant that we had to reshape the park and fill in part of the basin in order to build the station. But in doing so, the city also allocated funds to do improvements to the park that were originally scheduled for future years.”
Gorman says that Arrington Watkins held several large community meetings about the fire station to educate Tempe’s citizens about the need for the station and its design. “There were more than 50 people at each of the community meetings,” he says. “At each one, we presented our design, talked about the whys and wherefores of the need for the station, listened to their concerns—chiefly about being sure the station blended in with the neighborhood—and then went back and made some changes. The station sits on a primary road, so the apparatus doesn’t go through the neighborhood, and we talked to people about where the emergency generator would be located and its decibel level so they wouldn’t be concerned about it. An individual from the homeowners association sat in on a lot of the meetings to give and get feedback.”
Butch says that the finished station “is 100 percent what we had hoped for to meet the needs of our firefighters and the public in a comfortable environment.” He notes the city was committed to having a good partnership with Arrington Watkins in the design phase. “We got solar panels on the roof of a covered parking area and preset the station for more solar panels on the roof if needed in the future,” he notes. “We had a reclaimed water system installed for the desert front landscape, and Arrington Watkins used environmentally friendly materials for the walls, ceilings and roof of the station.”
Gorman points out that the exterior of Tempe Fire Station 7 is made of insulated concrete forms (ICF) “which have a very high R value for insulation and make it very quiet inside. ICF has thermal mass and foam insulation on both sides of the wall, so it’s a very efficient material to use that moderates the interior temperature of the building so it is very stable.” The roof of Station 7 is steel and wood over the living area, with insulation over the top of it, covered by standing seam metal roofing. The apparatus bays roof is an all steel structure, covered by standing seam metal roofing. Clerestory windows over the apparatus bays allow for natural lighting inside the bays.
Tempe Fire Station 7 has 12 dorm rooms, each with a single bed with triple drawers beneath it, three lockers, and a desk, while nearby are four unisex toilet/shower rooms and a personal laundry room. “The kitchen and dining area are in one open room on the north side of the building,” Gorman says, “and we wanted to take advantage of the park so we put in floor to ceiling, wall-to-wall windows in the dining area that look out over a covered patio into the park. The dining room has the only large table in the station, so it doubles as a training area for the firefighters. The day room adjacent the kitchen/dining area is a separate space, set up a little bit like a theater.” Adjacent to the living area are two captain’s offices, a lieutenant’s office, a firefighter office, and an administrative toilet.
Gorman says that the station’s three apparatus bays are double-deep, drive-through bays, with folding doors on the front and overhead doors on the back of the bays. “We put in large fans for exhaust removal where positive air pressure is input through an evaporative cooler supply fan, and air is removed by exhaust fans mounted over the rear doors,” he points out. “We are positively moving air in and out automatically where the system performs 20 air changes an hour and runs when the doors are open and continues to run for a while after the doors close. The bays also have cooling in the summer through the evaporative coolers.”
Butch says that located along one wall of the apparatus bays are a closed of PPE storage room that has its own ventilation system to handle off gassing of fumes, a decontamination shower room, a work room, an EMS storage room, and a gym.
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.