Chesterfield fire station reopens with new gadgets, same heart

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 15, 2018

 Mike Morad, from the city’s Building Department, shows off the custom helmet given to him by the Birmingham Fire Department for his contributions to the station’s reopening.

Mike Morad, from the city’s Building Department, shows off the custom helmet given to him by the Birmingham Fire Department for his contributions to the station’s reopening.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

BIRMINGHAM — When Birmingham’s second fire station, on West Maple Road, reopened last week after extensive renovations, firefighters returned to an impressive 11,000-square-foot building with plenty of high-tech upgrades.

But Assistant Chief John Donohue needed to add one thing.

“John came to me and said one of the big focal points of the station is the kitchen table. He said, ‘That’s where we share everything. And we’d like you to build it,’” said Birmingham Assistant Building Official Mike Morad. “I was honored.”

The station, with a price tag of about $3 million, kicked off construction in May 2017. It would take someone hours to walk through the new building and see all of the state-of-the-art upgrades that will help the department continue lightning-quick response times, run as an energy-efficient leader and even maintain the health of firefighters inside.

But there’s a good chance any person in the department giving you a tour would likely start with the kitchen table, a heartfelt piece by master craftsman Morad designed to bring the team together for food, conversation and a feeling of home.

“It’s solid cherry, 4-by-7 (feet),” Morad said. “And they told me not to worry about the legs. They had that taken care of.”

While Morad built the wood top of the table, adorned with the department’s crest and the words “brotherhood, family, dedicated” — a play on the department’s monogram — Assistant Chief Paul Wells, a bit of a welder in his free time, had a great idea for the legs.

“I remembered seeing this old discarded ladder over at the Adams station, and it was a pretty old style that was on the old trucks. I thought that would be perfect,” Wells said.

There’s a little heart built into every well of the new station, which replaces the original building from 1955. The massive west windows of the apparatus bay allow passers-by to look in and see the rescue vehicles and equipment. The detailed bi-fold doors are a nod back to the city’s early roots, and the benches built outside allow walkers to sit and have a rest right on the property.

“This looked pretty unwelcoming before, especially with the old landscaping. Now we’re even closer to the road to be more welcoming,” said Donohue.

The brand-new kitchen is completely decked out in stainless steel, which should make for easy cleanup after a night of cooking up that firehouse chili, and the dorms are private and spacious. There’s a lounge area nearby, along with a smaller one at the front of the building that’s a bit more private, so firefighters studying for degrees can have some quiet time or visit with family beside a flat-screen TV when they’ve been working for a few days at a time.

There’s a gym upstairs and laundry facilities, as well as an entire humidity-controlled room to store hoses and dry them between uses. If you can dream it, they’ve added it over at 1600 W. Maple Road.

The station was hardly built for comfort, though. The majority of the square footage is dedicated to the apparatus bay, which was designed, Wells said, to be more efficient now and can hopefully grow with the building.

“We project about 3,000 runs next year, since we’ve been growing about 6 percent annually,” he said, citing population growth, commercial expansion and, of course, access to calling technology for the increased action. “So we’re step by step working on building up (resources). It was built to last and built to expand.”

Bigger certainly doesn’t mean pricier, though. The LED lighting in the bay is designed to last 20 years and cost a fraction of traditional lighting. The radiant heating should keep trucks defrosted and heat inside the bay during the winter by sending the heat to the walls and floor, instead of to the middle of the massive room or out the door when the doors are opened.

Costs were kept down on the insurance side by firefighters taking a number of precautions to mitigate their exposure to cancer-causing toxins. Gear is washed between each use to remove unhealthy soot buildup, and exhaust covers descend from the ceiling to keep the bay free of diesel exhaust that could, over time, impact the respiratory system.

“The black stuff that comes out of those old semi-trucks — our engines have come a long, long way from that. But that’s just pure cancer, and we’re really making an effort to keep that out of here,” Wells said.

Hopefully, in the future, the bay will house larger engines, and there’s already a spot for the newly approved and ordered ambulance and ample room for emergency medical service equipment like defibrillators, since medical response is a major part of the department’s job.

“We do so much more than fight fires,” Fire Chief John Connaughton said. “We do advanced life support, which is really anything: cardiac arrest, trauma, diabetic emergencies. In fact, because our response time is so good having the two stations, the national survival rate for cardiac arrests is about 10 percent; ours is about 20 percent.”

The ribbon was cut to open the new digs last week, and tours were given to the public during the annual open house on Saturday, Oct. 13. Those in the community who weren’t able to attend either event can head over between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, to enjoy cider and doughnuts and see the new space.

So far, the guys said, they’ve received nothing but positive feedback from residents.

“The neighbors on either side of us said they love that we’re back lit up at night and to hear the guys grilling around back. We’re another neighbor on the block,” Wells said.