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Cutting fire response time: Station 4 city's first real expansion since 1957

By Mark Wineka

Salisbury Post

The handwritten message on the wall of the captain’s office says a lot:

Welcome to Station 4

35 years in the making

It’s punctuated at the end with a smiley face.

The Salisbury Fire Department has waited a long time for a new fire station and, without fanfare, firefighters manned their first shift in Station 4 at 2325 Statesville Blvd. Friday night.

The city last built a fire station in 1980 — Station 2 on South Main Street.

But that station, needing to be closer to National Starch and Chemical Corp. on Cedar Springs Road, only replaced a former station next to Chestnut Hill Cemetery.

Salisbury hasn’t really added a fire station since 1957, when Station 3 on West Innes Street was built.

So the message board in the captain’s office would have been just as accurate to say 50 years in the making.

“It’s the first fire station in 50 years, but I’m looking forward to it,” said Rodney Misenheimer, who will be one of the three captains at Station 4. “It’s a great improvement for us and the city.”

The $1.4 million station required the addition of six more firefighters.

Fire Chief Bob Parnell says the location will essentially cut response times in half for a western part of the city that includes the Salisbury Mall, many apartment complexes and significant housing developments.

Response times to this part of the city from Station 3 had been 6 to 9 minutes. It will be 3 to 5 minutes with the new station, Parnell says.

The Fire Department hired and started training the six new firefighters in April. They went on line in August and have been working out of Station 2 until the new digs were ready.

Station 4 becomes the city’s second largest station behind the headquarters station on East Innes Street which, as with the new station, has four bays.

KKA Architecture designed the new station. Summit Developers served as general contractor.

Staff Capt. Paul Rendleman, logistics officer for the Fire Department, nursed the whole project along from the official groundbreaking in October 2005.

Rendleman made countless trips to the construction site all during 2006.

“We kind of call it the house that Paul built,” Parnell says.

The building is no-frills — a metal framework with brick veneer in front. It’s built for efficiency of movement for both responding to a fire call and returning from one.

Don’t expect to find a fire pole, but it is the first Salisbury fire station that includes separate facilities for men and women firefighters.

The station provides four sleeping pods, a day area, kitchen, captain’s office, foyer and expansive upstairs for exercise equipment and training.

The deep lot off Statesville Boulevard has extensive concrete driveways in the front, side and rear, allowing all the equipment to circle around and pull into bays from the back.

The undeveloped portion of the 3-acre tract offers potential for training activities or exercise areas, Rendleman says.

“We put our money into space,” Parnell adds.

In the beginning, the four-bay area will include the multi-functional “Quint” apparatus, a reserve engine and the hazardous materials truck and trailer, which just fits into the building.

The Haz-Mat rig was being parked outside at Station 2.

Parnell says the department continues to assess what other equipment will be located at Station 4.

By design, the decontamination area is between the expansive bay area and the living quarters. It includes an emergency shower area, sinks for cleaning equipment and a special washing machine or “extractor” for decontaminating turnout gear.

“Decontamination is a big issue with OSHA” and workplace safety laws in general, Parnell says. The area features a lot of stainless steel and non-porous concrete. It also has a dryer for hoses and turnout gear.

A door from the decontamination area leads to the regular shower and toilet facilities and sleeping pods.

Each pod includes a raised bed with drawers underneath. Firefighters are provided locker space, closets, desks with computer hookups and cable television. The pods are open at one end so firefighters can quickly move out the door to the bays.

Walls separate the pods for privacy yet allow the firefighters to communicate with each other.

The department has equipped the day area with five recliners, a television for training videos and DVDS, and storage cabinets for personal food supplies.

The kitchen area has all the usual appliances and large dining table. The captain’s office has a door directly to the bay area.

The captains at Station 4 will include Misenheimer, Bobby Fox and Mike Spry. Firefighters moved or put together themselves a lot of their new furnishings.

“I thought moving into my house was hard,” Misenheimer says.

A dozen firefighters will be assigned to Station 4, with four men or women designated for each 24-hour shift.

The station has an emergency call box just outside its front door. If the station’s crew were out on a call and a passerby needed emergency help, he could speak directly with a 911 dispatcher through the box.

The station has a full sprinkler system, heat and smoke detectors and an alarm system. The 14-foot-high bay doors — four in front and four in back — have motion detectors.

The road construction connected to the widening of Statesville Boulevard continues in front of Station 4. Parnell said the state Department of Transportation will be putting a break in the future median so fire trucks can turn left from the station.

Parnell expects the station also will have a traffic light after the DOT performs necessary traffic studies.

While Station 4 is officially up and running Monday, the city won’t have an official ribbon-cutting and open house until April 14.

Parnell says the station’s foyer will be outfitted with a hollowed-out fire hydrant, which will include a time capsule to be opened in, say, 50 years. The Salisbury Fire Department knows exactly how long that is.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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