The firehall: A home away from home

Everyone has a home away from home. For hockey players, it's the arena, builders the hardware store and teachers the classroom.

For firefighters it's the fire hall.

While on duty, the fire hall provides the men and women who protect and serve their community with a place to train, eat and sleep during the working day.

On March 19, the men and women of Kamloops Fire and Rescue will have another house to call home at Station No. 7 in Aberdeen. According to fire chief Neill Moroz, the new station on Aberdeen Drive is also the first new one in the City for 100 years.

Halls have moved as Kamloops amalgamated with outlying communities, but this is the first addition to the family in a century, he said.

"We've tried to make it sustainable," Moroz told The Daily News during a recent tour. "This should last a long time without having to do anything to it."

Station No. 7 has been discussed for the better part of a decade as a much-needed asset for Fire and Rescue to contend with a growing number of calls as the population has grown.

Moroz said it's strategically placed to serve the bustling Aberdeen/Dufferin area and back up fire services in the already busy downtown.

It will also provide the fire department with two things it can never have enough of: more storage and training space, he said.

"Storage space is always in short supply," said Moroz.

Fortunately a mezzanine off the station's six parking bays will provide more than enough of that, he said. Plus the roof rafters are designed so firefighters can tie ropes off them and practice rescue maneuvers.

"The rooms off the side of the bays are designed to practice searches of buildings. They can be darked out," said Moroz. "It's not just a storage room or a place to wash gear. It's a part of our training program."

A five-storey hose tower also serves Fire and Rescue's training needs. Firefighter Dean Austinson designed a hose washing system that cleans and pulls hoses up into the tower to dry. Plus the tower, a one of its kind in the city, is filled with metal-framed stairs and landings that are well suited for repelling and rope-rescue training.

"You can also do high-rise and mid-rise training," he said, pointing out how much time firefighters spend climbing up onto buildings and other structures. "You can do rope work down the centre of the (tower) in the winter time."

Climb to the top of the tower and there's a balcony where crews can climb over the railing and repel to the ground below. Moroz said it also affords a great view of neighbourhood.

"I am excited about this training tower," said Moroz.

But there's more to Station No. 7 than training and storage space. At any one time four men and women will work and live here. And Moroz points out the hall has all the modern comforts of a commercial building designed to house staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The floors in the office and living quarters are polished concrete, not the carpet and tile that can be found in other fire halls. Moroz said crews can easily wash down a mess that's track it instead of having to work the stain out.

Lighting several rooms - including the six parking bays - are Solo Tubes. At first glance the tubes look like lights, and they provide more than ample illumination. But Moroz said they are actually skylights providing nothing more than natural light.

"They're incredible," he said.

Also incredible are the Chilling Beams that heat and cool the station. Moroz had never heard of them before, but a little Internet research revealed they are a industrial and commercial heating system that efficiently manages room temperature in a similar fashion to the old boiler system.

Using a glycol solution, four tubes are used to move and return hot or cool liquid depending on need, he said.

The offices are lit with motion-controlled lights. All a staff member has to do is walk into a room and the lights come on. Moroz said they quickly turn off when someone leaves the room.

Living quarters include a large common room with kitchen and dining area and balcony. There's also a male and female changing area with room to sleep or study, depending on what's needed.

Moroz said it's less common for crews to sleep during the night shift, as there is much work to be done. But there are beds if needed.

"It's pretty rare that we get to use these rooms for anything other than changing, he said.

Landscaping for Station No. 7 will be completed in the spring; well after the hall is in use. It was built within its $3.9 budget.

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