FIREHOUSE.COM NEWS by Peter Matthews - The City of Charleston, SC, approved plans to replace the current Fire Station 11 and build adjacent to the Charleston 9 memorial site. Residents wanted the station to be the neighborhood’s “shining light and a beacon of the community." As the West Ashley area of Charleston grows, the city determined that the current Station 11 needed to be relocated to improve service delivery and found that the property adjacent to the memorial site—about a mile from the existing station, would help fill a service gap.
The 14,000-square-foot station will be home to Engine 11 and the 15 firefighters who are assigned to that company and the city’s command training center. There will be space for additional firefighters and apparatus should a ladder company need to be added to the growing community, said Interim Fire Chief John Tippett Jr.
With the eyes of the city focused on changes in the neighborhood, Liollio Architecture, the Charleston Fire Department and the city sought feedback from residents about the station and wanted to address concerns about noise.
“The city helped us host a meeting before the design got started with the immediate community and neighbors of the station,” said Jennifer Charzewski, principal at Liollio Architecture. Additional feedback was collected from the community when they staffed a booth at the farmer’s market and the residents were happy to be part of the process, she added.
“I think that the steps that Liollio took for community involvement were huge and really helped with the process,” Tippett said.
Since the station’s 1.9-acre site is situated on a busy highway, it will be set back 75 from the street to allow apparatus to turnaround on the front ramp without placing the vehicles in traffic and helping reduce the noise heard by resident.
Designing the station
“One of the important distinctions that was presented to us at the beginning was that this is not a memorial fire station, it’ a fire station,’ Charzewski said. “It’s there to serve the community and provide a fire service and represent where the fire service is today and where it is headed.”
The design includes nine vertical windows in the apparatus bay that will be open toward the Charleston 9 memorial site.
“It was very important to people in the fire department organization, that when people are standing at the memorial, they can look into the station and see fire trucks and see the technology and the future of the fire department.” Charzewski said. "We wanted a lot of glass and that’s the most direct reference to the memorial in the design."
Tippett said lessons learned from the last three station construction projects in Charleston helped the department prepare for this project.
“It’s very critical that you can select an architect that you are comfortable with and one who has experience in fire station projects,” Tippet said. “It’s a lot more than a garage with a house attached to it.”
Tippett added that it's important to have a project manager who is available to be on-site during the entire process and that position is going to be filled by someone in Charleston’s Capitol Projects division, along with a chief from the fire department’s Technical Services division. Those two will work with the designers and builders and handle any questions or concerns.
The department put together “packages”—such as choosing the kitchen appliances and furniture, dorm room furniture or physical fitness equipment—and that helps the department streamline both design and purchasing processes.
“Establishing those packages helps speed up the design process and also the standardization of the products helps with any repair process since we know where to get parts from and not every station has a different ice maker or cabinet,” Tippet said.
“We are in the process of developing a low-maintenance landscape, while working to meet the city’s requirements and realizing that the firefighters already have a busy schedule without having to worry about landscaping,” Charzewski said.
The 1st floor
The first floor will include three apparatus bays, the lobby and the command training center. In addition to Engine 11's apparatus, the department plans to store historical apparatus and have room for the addition of a ladder company, if needed.
Tippett said that Liollio pitched the concept of locating the PPE storage adjacent to the employee entrance to allow members to place their gear at the apparatus before they meet with colleagues on the second level to start that shift.
“They are already starting to go to work as they enter the building," Tippett said.
PPE extractors will be strategically located in the station to help with immediate decontamination following fires.
“We’re pretty invested in hood swaps and wipes at the scene and then encouraging the new best practices about showering as soon as possible and changing out their uniforms,” Tippett added.
The public will enter the fire station through a lobby where plans include displaying an antique Charleston fire apparatus and storyboards that illustrate the department’s rich history. The department is trying to determine how many firefighters died serving the city, and Tippett says the station will serve as a memorial to the 22 they have identified, including the Charleston 9.
Command training center
Following the Sofa Super Store fire, the department put a large focus on incident command training and the new station will help current and future fire officers sharpen their command skills using the command training center located on the first floor.
The simulation lab features a large classroom with high-tech components including, display screens, and the department can conduct Blue Card incident command training and serve as regional command training center.
Plans also include incorporating an area to use a vehicle in the apparatus bay for training.
The living quarters are located on the second floor, which allows for separation to keep the soiled PPE and firefighting equipment away from the living areas.
The living areas include a great room with a living room space, a collective dining area and a kitchen with refrigerators and storage for each of the three shifts. Charzewski said this will be located on the north side of the station, which provides for ample daylight without the heat of the sun.
The bunkroom will have 10 spaces surrounded by six-foot-high partitions. The lockers will be located outside the sleeping area to allow for added privacy while members are resting. A study area will be adjacent to the bunkroom to allow for quiet time.
Single-person bathrooms with showers will be used throughout the station to avoid having to add additional gender-neutral restrooms.
Local challenges for design
The station will feature a series of several smaller HVAC systems to cover different zones of the station, for both ease in maintenance and redundancy.
"If one system needs to be taken down, we can still have other areas of the station that are comfortable for the firefighters," Charzewski said.
In order to meet building codes for available fresh air, Charzewski said additional dehumidification will be added to the station’s HVAC system because of the humid air found in the region.
“The city is going above and beyond the standards of storm water drainage to make sure it’s not an issue,” Charzewski said of the problems often found in low-lying Charleston.
New stations in Charleston
In 2012, Charleston's new Headquarters Station was built after much planning. Tippett said it was designed to be used as a gathering point during storms because of its location and being built with hurricane resistance features.
As the city continues to grow, two new stations are in the process of being built.
Construction for Station 14 is almost complete and the fire department is expected to move in later this year, while Station 21 on Daniel Island is currently operating from a temporary station.