Jan 212010
Authors: Sara Michael

On Monday, the Poudre Fire Authority celebrated the first operational date of the new Station 4. Upon first entrance to the massive new fire station on the corner of Drake Road and Taft Hill Road, the view is relatively unimpressive. A couple of offices, district maps on the wall –– a standard workplace in nearly every interpretation.

However, take a left down the hall, and there is a different story.

“The old facility was just not built for today’s use,” said PFA Captain Patrick Love, gesturing into the room. And yet, stepping into the grandeur of the living quarters, it’s hard to believe that this is.
There is a sudden aura of home.

Three stainless-steel refrigerators border a granite-counter-topped kitchen, and a kitchen table that is big enough for King Arthur and all of his knights. In an adjoining living room, four armchairs surround a flat-screen television.
Were it not for the huge safety net hung on the wall, Fire Station 4 could easily pass as a classy high-rise home for about 15 people.

Add to this the bedrooms that allow gracious space for a bed and desk per firefighter and could house up to 24 firefighters at once, and it seems that the three firefighters on location per shift have lots of space to play hide and seek.

Talking to Love, though, it is clear that there is sparse time for tomfoolery.

“We opened at 8 a.m., and we got our first call at 11,” he said.

The new station has been a long-time coming, Love added. The old Fire Station 4, located in a residential area on Devonshire Drive, is remarkably out of date. At initial glance, it looks like any of the surrounding houses and inside, it shares the same impression: small.

The old station, built in 1980, was built as a temporary station and meant to operate for only five or 10 years.
Financial reasons since then have made construction impossible, and Station 4 has been residing in a small house for the last 30 years. Creaky stairs and bedrooms smaller than dorm rooms, coupled with a steep flight of stairs and a garage big enough for only one fire engine ­­–– not the ideal situation, by any means.

“That house was very dated and way past its lifespan,” said City Council member Kelly Ohlson, D-5, in whose district both stations stand. “The new building is more of a 21st century fire station.”

In early 2009, PFA seized its chance to build. Construction began in May, and the timing was good: in October, the City Council voted to eliminate funding for all maintenance on stations 1 through 4.

“We have to spread the pain around on the budget,” Ohlson said. “We asked PFA where we could cut, and they came up with that.”

The goal for this new station is to deepen response capabilities and shorten response time, Love says. The new station will cut response time by a minute and 15 seconds, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, approximately the time it takes for an entire house to fill with smoke.
In this business, every second counts.

And the firefighters themselves?
“The change has affected me wonderfully,” said PFA Fire Captain Andy Vigil, laughing. “It’s a more adaptive station than the house. A lot more privacy.”

The change, he says, will not only be better for them, but better for the their constituents in Fort Collins.
“And there’s plenty of room to grow,” Vigil said.
Growth is in the plans.

In the future, PFA plans to house two companies at Station 4: the engine company, which currently resides there and a new heavy rescue unit, which will add four more firefighters per shift.
When that happens, there will be eight people per shift and a total of 24 firefighters stationed at Station 4 –– just enough people to fill those 24 beds.

Staff writer Sara Michael can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Poudre fire authority station 4

*What: first fire station to qualify for green certifications with solar lights in bedrooms, utilizing daylight as much as possible and radiant floor heating

*Where: 1945 W. Drake Rd.

*Serves: the corner of Prospect Road and Taft Hill Road to the corner of Harmony Road and Timberline, Horsetooth Reservoir and part of Shields Street

*Cost: approximately $4.5 million

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