Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.
At the intersection of Bedford Street and Worthen Road, a massive brick building is nearing completion. The finishing touches are being put on the new Lexington Fire Station, a building that will make work safer and more comfortable for those tasked with saving lives in town. A bevy of new features are being added to the building which, at more than 28,000 square feet, will dwarf the previous home of the LFD.
The project, years in the making, is set to wrap up sometime in August, Assistant Chief Chris Ford said this week. While work has been slowed slightly because of the coronavirus outbreak, firefighters should have access to their new home by the end of summer. The new building is being built where the old station stood before being demolished in December 2018. Since then, LFD has operated out of a temporary headquarters further down Bedford Street.
A look inside
The Minuteman was privy to a sneak peek of the new facility last week. After walking through the front entrance, members of the public will be able to view an antique fire truck, as well as other historic memorabilia. On the right is a large, open training room which can also serve as an emergency operations center. At the old station, just one space functioned as the training room, living room, and dining room.
Down the main hallway, past doors meant to section off the public, is an IT room and separate offices each for the fire inspector, paramedics, assistant chief for fire prevention, the lieutenants, and the captains. In the old building, and in the temporary station, captains, lieutenants, and paramedics all shared one office.
“Everything was very tight, you didn’t have any extra space. We had water problems in the basement, the attic was unusable, notoriously up and down heating and cooling systems. Every time you turned around it was another issue,” Ford said.
The main living room is past this area on the first floor. Although it is currently empty, it will soon be filled with 10 comfortable reclining chairs and an 85-inch wall-mounted TV. A special folding wall separates the living room from the kitchen and dining room, allowing the space to host a large gathering or multiple small groups. A dining table able to seat 20 people will be brought in soon.
The high-end kitchen is ADA compliant, with space for plenty to cook and store food in the fridge or cabinets. According to Ford, there is no definite system set up for the firefighters to determine who cooks during their 24-hour shifts. Usually, if someone makes a bad meal, or one that is too expensive, they won’t be asked to cook again, he said, laughing.
Doors near here lead to the back of the building, which hosts a large diesel-powered generator. It has enough power to fuel the station multiple times over in an emergency, Ford said. Solar power will also be incorporated into the final design. Solar panels are already installed on the roof, and the corresponding batteries will soon be added.
Safety a priority
The ground floor will also have a special decontamination room, a first for the LFD. Special washers and dryers have been installed for firefighting gear. Currently, the department can only wash one set of gear at a time. With these new machines, they will be able to wash and dry six at once. A decontamination shower will be in this room as well. If a firefighter has been exposed to harmful material, they can wash off here as opposed to contaminating the regular showers in the upstairs living quarters.
The main garage is nearby. At any time, it can fit two regular fire engines, a ladder truck, two ambulances, and multiple smaller vehicles. Large yellow tubes swing from the ceiling, letting firefighters magnetically attach them to the trucks’ exhaust, so that fumes from the engines exit through the roof rather than fill up the garage. A large sign displays the address of whichever call firefighters are preparing to go to.
“It’s so much bigger. In our old garage you would bump elbows going between trucks. These doors are 14 feet wide, 14 feet high. There’s plenty of space for a quick opening and we should have plenty of room.”
A room adjacent to the garage is outfitted to maintain and fill the oxygen tanks and breathing gear used by LFD frequently.
Overlooking the garage is the training mezzanine, an area built for physical training activities. A sled for practicing sledgehammer use, an imitation manhole, and two windows that firefighters can practice bailing out of are all in this area. In the past firefighters had to go to other locations for these types of activities. Training is more essential now than ever, Ford said, since the department has seen increased turnover and new hires in recent years.
Room for all
Ten bedrooms, with easy access to a firepole, are also on this floor. There is a study across the hall for those looking to read, surf the web, or study for an upcoming exam. An indoor gym is also accessible. It will have a 6-inch rubber floor, extra air conditioning, and soundproof walls.
“Some buildings look great but aren’t functional. This one is,” Ford said. “It’s definitely going to improve the morale of the team. It’s tough, you’re here for 24 hours with 10 people. This building will allow them to separate and get their own personal space, but when they want to come together it’ll be easy.”
Throughout the station, on desks and in hallways are special phones outfitted with video screens. If someone comes to the front of the station, anyone can use these to converse with those at the front door and buzz them in if needed.
To Ford and the rest of his colleagues, the chance to move into a brand new station like this is a once-in-a-career opportunity.
“You usually don’t get to see a new station in your career. They’re not built that often,” he said. “To see the technology, the beauty, the space of this, I’ll be proud to retire out of here.”
©2020 Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.
Visit Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass. at needham.wickedlocal.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.