Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Renovations to Plano fire station geared toward technical rescue
The additional space will allow firefighters to store reserve equipment.
Construction is under way to not only expand Plano Fire Station No. 4, but to also turn it into a training center for the fire department's Technical Rescue Team (TRT).
Fire Chief Hugo Esparza explained during a neighborhood roundtable that the fire department's TRT, if compared in military terms, would be "the equivalent of our Navy SEALs." When a rescue is required that other firefighters don't have the training to complete, the TRT, which is based out of Fire Station No. 4, is called in.
The group receives extra training and equipment to learn how to respond to intense and unique situations such as high-angle rescues, building or trench collapses, and swift water. The training is rigorous due to the high degree of difficulty required in some of the rescues.
"There are separate training classes for each discipline," said Assistant Chief Dan Thompson. "It is safe to say that for each discipline, it takes a couple of weeks of training to get them up where we want them. It may take some new guys six months to a year to get them fully trained."
Captain Shawn Price, a member of the TRT, said the team doesn't have to use its expertise often, but when it does, they are the only group in the department that can safely get the job done.
"If someone is hanging off the side of the building, we are the only ones who have the ropes to go and get them," Price said. "We are the only people who have the training to safely remove someone from a collapsed trench. Any fireman is going to want to help, but there are standards dealing with who can do what on rescues. You have to have a certain level of training."
Currently, the TRT has to drive to Fire Station No. 1 for rescue training, which takes them out of their territory near the intersection of Spring Creek Parkway and Roundrock Trail. Once construction is completed around February, the firefighters will be able to use props and balconies built into the station to simulate pulling victims up from the ground or bringing them down from the overhangs.
Anchors are being installed in the roof of the station's new addition that support more than 9,000 pounds and allow firefighters to rappel and climb the building for training purposes. The team will also be able to use the stairwell, which features dummy water pipes such as those found in high rises, as a training tool, Thompson said. A cutout has also been installed in the station's new mezzanine to allow team members to practice rescues in tight spaces.
Previously, unused equipment had to sit outside, exposing to the elements, because there was no other place for it. The additional space will allow them to store reserve equipment -- a rescue truck, trailers for the department's rescue boat and trench equipment, and tow vehicles -- indoors.
Fire Station No. 4 was built in the late '70s and renovated in 2001, but it was apparent that more room would still be needed as the department and its fleet grew. Paul Glenn, the senior facilities construction coordinator for the city, joked that the toughest part of the renovation was finding newly made bricks which exactly matched the near 40-year-old bricks that encase the existing station.
The expansion was approved by voters during a 2005 bond referendum, but building Fire Station No. 13, which opened earlier this year, took precedence and the project was put on hold. The delay was actually beneficial to the city because in that time, construction costs have decreased between 15 and 20 percent. Esparza said they now anticipate the total cost around $1.9 million. The cost reductions will allow the station to add more living quarters and the previously mentioned training opportunities.
The station can currently house 10 firefighters per shift, although only about eight firefighters work at a time. However, that number could increase to 14 when the new living quarters are complete. Thompson said it is not yet known when new firefighters will move in, but said within three to five years he could see a battalion chief, as well as a two-man ambulance crew based out of the station.
Construction crews set the piers and foundation structures in place in early August and are currently working on finishing out the new equipment bay and living areas. The station is still operational, housing an engine, ladder truck, and rescue truck. A new driveway was also installed off of Spring Creek, which Thompson said makes it easier for trucks to turn into the station.
Pegasus News Content partner - Star Local News
Former staff writer Jessica Rush contributed to this report.
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