The Lino Lakes Public Safety Department’s fire service has dispatched.
As of Feb. 1, it is the sole first responder to fire-related emergencies. The response crew includes cross-trained police officers who are constantly on patrol around the city and about two dozen on-call firefighters. There are about a dozen assigned to each station, the older Centennial Fire District (CFD) station on the north side on Lake Drive and the new station on the south side.
The city’s brand new fire station at the corner of Centerville Road and Birch Street is a state-of-the-art design and was developed with the assistance of a consulting firm, said Councilman Bill Kusterman. The total cost of the building was $3.9 million. It is 15,014 square feet, which includes some exterior areas. The station has new training equipment, a dispatch center, day room and garage.
When an on-call firefighter reports to duty, he or she will go to the turnout gear room and suit up. They will then go to the dispatch center room and await instructions. There will also be a screen that displays which firefighters have responded to the call and are on their way. If called to the scene, they will board the responding equipment units and head out.
When returning from a call, firefighters will use the “decon” restrooms to get out of their gear, which is “the unfancy bathroom,” said Public Safety Director John Swenson. If their breathing apparatus needs a fill they will bring it to the apparatus storage room. There are special washers and dryers for turnout gear.
The fire station is equipped with multiple features that offer firefighters 11 of the 12 training requirements to be licensed. Firefighters need to update their training every three years. The only training element not available at the new station is a live burn.
“We can do all of them in this building,” said Swenson, “only not the live burn.”
There is a second-story training mezzanine just above the garage where firefighters can use ladders to go through windows. The mezzanine has open slots where different types of windows can be installed for practice. The mezzanine also has a manhole that extends down to the turnout gear room and a board that firefighters can cut through to simulate an emergency where cutting through a floor is necessary. The training mezzanine can be filled with smoke by flipping switches on a wall in a separate room. There is a window in that room through which observers may look out onto the mezzanine.
A training tower simulates a four-story building. Firefighters can be trained in the stairwell inside or on the wall outside of the building, which has doors that open up to simulate windows for training purposes. There is also a balcony for use in training firefighters in using an aerial device. The stairwell inside has a water standpipe –common in commercial buildings — and firefighters can practice carrying a hose up to the standpipe and tapping into the building’s water supply.
One of the staff even donated a basketball hoop so firefighters can practice getting their heart rates up while using the breathing apparatus.
The building houses a used fire engine purchased from Woodbury and several vehicles received from the redistribution of assets with the CFD. From CFD there is a tanker, grass truck, six-wheeler, snowmobile and boat. The ladder truck from CFD will be housed at the north station, which also houses the “twin engine” to the one at the south station, also purchased from Woodbury.
A Ford F150 and Ford Escape from CFD were also received and are being used by District Chief Paul Peltier of the south station and District Chief Jonas Werpy of the north station.
One ambulance from North Memorial will be housed within the city, alternating between the northern station and the southern station.
The new station also contains a classroom with a door to the outside for training purposes. It has a smartboard, purchased through an Anoka County grant, and removable white boards. The classroom could double as an emergency dispatch center in case of a disaster, such as a tornado. The building has a backup generator.
There is a day room equipped with a kitchen, lounge chairs and a TV for meetings and gatherings. Firefighters can hang out there when not on duty.
Peltier has an office in the building. There is also an office for police officers. “Now we will have an area for a car on this side of the city to do paperwork,” said Swenson.
The front door of the double-door entrance will always be unlocked. A phone in the vestibule makes it possible for community members to make 911 calls if needed.
Swenson said the restructuring of fire service has been going well.
“We have been responding since Dec. 28,” he said. “We have been responding as the primary agency since Jan. 1. Our response times have been great for getting fire-trained staff on scene.”
There was an appliance fire last month in Lino Lakes and a cross-trained police officer responded. The owner had actually extinguished the fire with baking soda before the firefighter officer arrived and the paid on-call firefighters were not deployed.
One of the department’s goals is to not burn out its paid on-call firefighters. Another is to reduce costs. The protocol is to have full-time, cross-trained police officers respond to calls where a whole crew is not needed.
The city consulted with North Memorial on which calls would need fire personnel. On-call firefighters will be mobilized for bigger emergencies, such as a heart attack, respiratory distress or situations where they need more manpower. On-call firefighters were paged into several car accidents this month.
“We are sending them, just not on minor calls,” said Swenson. “We’re forecasting 250 calls a year.”
Swenson wants the community to know public safety services have not decreased.
Councilman Bill Kusterman said Lino Lakes wanted a new fire station on the south side due to its increasing development in the area. But with two city representatives from each of its three cities on the CFD steering committee, Lino Lakes was outnumbered by majority vote.
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