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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Fire barn's age is showing

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Time is not the side of the city fire department at its current location on West B. It's been at the location for nearly 50 years, since the early 1950s -- and it shows.

With a crumbling parking lot and little parking available, cramped quarters and pressing maintenance and technology demands, department needs have outpaced its space.

The fire department is using a building originally built as a warehouse for a utility company, with an addition constructed in 1984 to get the facility through the next five years.

But five years came and went, and as McCook City Fire Chief Marc Harpham put it, "We have cut and diced everything we have to gain space, and there is no place to go."

Lack of space has ambulances and fire trucks squeezed into a small bay area. With only one entrance for the equipment, vehicles must be backed in.

Navigating around the equipment can get tricky. When a fire call comes in, "Getting out can get difficult when you have a lot of other things going through your head," Harpham admitted on the public tour Monday night.

Other issues brought to light included privacy and safety concerns. Harpham said the layout of the department now allows the public to walk directly into the day room, where training sessions and staff meetings take place. In addition, although there is a smoke detector, there is no sprinkler system in place. With no electrical outlets available, extension cords run through the low ceiling. The facility is not handicapped accessible and there is one bathroom for all the firefighters. This poses a problem when ambulance crews come back after a call and could be soiled with blood or airborne pathogens. EMTs back from a call can contaminate everything in their path as they walk through the facility, Harpham said.

With only one washer available, gear must be cleaned one set at a time. There is no space for a cool-air dryer so after a fire, bunker gear must be laid out drying in the bay area.

The large overhead doors in the bay area let rainwater in, making slipping a danger when firefighters are rushing out on a call. The doors have also been known to stop halfway up.

Using 6,500 square feet now, the new facility, at $2.9 million, calls for 13,500 feet. "It sounds like a lot, but it's nothing fancy," Harpham said. The new facility would have an entrance for the equipment bay on C Street, with an exit on West Fifth. It also includes office and storage space that can grow with the department, a training room, four sleeping rooms than can be converted into the future for eight bunks, kitchen, dining room, two restrooms, decontamination room and direct access to the bay area.

When asked if the West Ward location is far enough away from a possible hazardous spill from a rail car, Harpham said although it's not the perfect location, it is farther away than where they are now, which is 50 feet from the railroad.

The ideal location for a fire department would be the center of town, at J Street and Norris Avenue, Harpham noted.

The new fire facility would be on the southwest corner of the West Ward site, one city block between West C and D and West Fourth and West Fifth.

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