When Beukendaal Fire District in Glenville, New York, formed its station replacement committee, the 18-person group was focused on building a new firehouse. But, the committee ran into potential issues—from environmental problems because the station location was in an aquifer recharge zone, to the lack of a tax base to support the estimated $7 million to $9 million cost of a new firehouse of the size they envisioned to carry the fire department into the future.
Larry Colleton, a member of the district’s board of fire commissioners, says the district reached out with a legal notice and letters to architects and engineering firms that it was looking to build a new firehouse. “When we sat down with Bob Mitchell of Mitchell Associates Architects, he pointed out to us that we didn’t need to tear down our existing station, but would be able to preserve some of that fire house and its history,” Colleton says. “Mitchell impressed all of us with his abilities and knowledge in giving us different options, and his use of technology to show us the many choices that we had in using the old station in a renovation and the addition of a brand new section.”
Beukendaal Fire District is an all volunteer department mustering 60 firefighters out of its single station, and covering more than 10 square miles and 1,772 properties in the town of Glenville with a population of 27,000. The department runs a 2004 Rosenbauer engine, a 1995 Emergency Equipment Inc. pumper, a 1995 International 4WD front-mount rescue-pumper, and a Chevy Suburban emergency medical services (EMS) response vehicle. Its coverage area is a mix of suburban, commercial, rural, and light industrial areas, along with a 10 mile stretch of the Mohawk River.
Mitchell, a principal in the architectural firm, says the challenges he faced involved two earlier extensions that had been made to the existing station, one to the apparatus bays and the other to a members room. “We had to work with a concrete plank roof structure that was pretty low on the members room,” Mitchell says, “and build a new station to the right of it, as well as keep the original apparatus bays working during construction of the new addition that would house the new apparatus bays and other facilities.”
Mitchell says his firm built four new apparatus bays and new offices in front of the members room, with a new entry section while the department continued to operate its apparatus out of the two existing bays. “It was a pain for the members, but much better than going into temporary facilities,” he notes, “which would have cost about $400,000. We compared that figure with the multiple mobilization of the trades that we did, which saved them money by not phasing the work on the renovations and the additions.”
The new addition Mitchell designed and built consists of four double-deep drive-through apparatus bays with a decon laundry room featuring a door off the station’s back apron. The addition also includes a radio room, compressor room, air fill station, mechanical room, EMS storage, general storage area, and bathrooms. A mezzanine with mechanical systems and storage sits above the apparatus bays.
Colleton says the mezzanine serves a dual function of storage space and training area. “The mezzanine has a bailout window and also a storm grating in the floor that we can use for rapid intervention team (RIT) training for taking a firefighter from one floor to another to simulate our firefighter assist and search team (FAST) training,” he notes.
Colleton points out that the department faced the challenge of a very tight parking area when volunteers responded to calls during construction and renovation of the station. “When the contractors were working, the parking lot was very small because of all the equipment around the station,” he says. “But once we were able to move into the new apparatus bays, it was easy, especially because the new bays were so much larger than what we had in the old station.”
Mitchell says that turnout gear is kept in lockers in the apparatus bays instead of a separate turnout gear room “because the district was concerned about the budget,” but that they did approve a wireless access control system for the structure where access for any door or room in the facility can be changed easily.
Cost of the 17,913 square foot station and renovation was $3.869 million, Mitchell adds.
Colleton says the district wanted to design a station that could last for the next 100 years. “We have quite a bit of land that still can be developed,” he says, “and made sure we had plenty of room in the apparatus bays for a ladder truck that we anticipate purchasing. Also, Mitchell designed the station so it can be added to in the future.”
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.