When firefighters start moving into Ashland's new Fire Station No. 2 on Friday, they won't have to deal with carcinogenic vehicle exhaust, wash off blood-spattered paramedic gear in the kitchen sink or worry that the station will collapse in an earthquake.
Workers are putting the finishing touches on the station after voters approved up to $3 million in bonds in 2011 to replace the original cramped, aging station on Ashland Street.
The public is invited to a dedication ceremony at 4 p.m. Thursday at the corner of Ashland Street and Sherwood Avenue. Tours and refreshments will be provided.
When: 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14
Where: 1860 Ashland St.
The original station was built with cinderblocks that were unlikely to withstand an earthquake.
One wall was so unstable that firefighters could wobble it with their hands, said Ashland Fire & Rescue Division Chief Greg Case.
Exhaust from fire engines and ambulances would fill the station. Firefighters had to keep wiping down the kitchen, which would get coated with benzine, a carcinogenic by-product of vehicle exhaust, Case said.
Now large tubes hang from the ceiling of the new engine bay, ready to be attached to vehicles to suck exhaust out of the large, garage-style space.
Ashland's firefighters, who also double as paramedics, now have their own small room equipped with spray nozzles to hose off their equipment.
"They used to have to do it in the old kitchen sink," said Case, noting that it was an unsafe practice because of the risk of biohazards contaminating food.
The stove in the new kitchen has a unique safeguard — it's connected to the alarm system.
"It shuts off automatically when the alarm goes off so we don't have a fire in the fire station," Case said.
The old alarm system was so antiquated that replacement parts were almost impossible to find. Occasionally, parts could be found on eBay, Case said.
Throughout the new station, the new alarm system has light bars that shine red for regular fires, blue for medical emergencies and green for wildfires.
The alarms start out with a low tone to avoid jolting firefighters, who are at risk from heart attacks because of the stress of sudden, loud alarms and the unpredictable, fast-paced nature of their jobs, Case said.
As part of the alarm system, display boards in the station give firefighter-paramedics advance notice of the addresses where they must go, speeding up response times.
And, of course, the station has a shiny new brass pole so firefighters can zip down from their upstairs sleeping quarters to the engine bay.
The station includes a small room with two washing machines and dryers.
"They are not allowed to take their uniforms home. We don't want them to get their families sick," Case said.
In the old station, firefighter-paramedics slept in a single room and partitioned off sleeping quarters with lockers and curtains.
Now they can each have a room that is almost as big as a college dormitory bedroom, an important consideration since they work 48 hours straight.
The new station also has a study room and a training room.
"They train every day," Case said. "Those skills need to be second nature, and there are always new techniques to learn."
A workout room with weights and cardiovascular machines will help keep them in shape for their jobs and reduce the risk of injury, he said.
Over time, the firefighter-paramedics will save taxpayers money with a new machine that separates oxygen from other gases in the air and fills canisters with oxygen. That's less expensive than buying oxygen, Case said.
A backup generator on site will provide power if the electricity goes out or if disaster strikes.
Designed by the Portland-based firm Peck Smiley Ettlin Architects, the new station meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards with features such as solar hot water and solar electric systems.
Permeable pavers on the ground around the station will allow rainwater to soak through, and vegetation-filled bioswales will help filter runoff before it flows into storm drains and creeks.
Ashland was at risk of having to shut down the old Fire Station No. 2 because of unsafe conditions there.
Fire Chief John Karns said Station No. 2 complements Station No. 1 downtown, which was designed by the same architectural firm.
Having two stations ensures five-minute average response times for both ends of town, Karns said.
Firefighters have been working out of a nearby cemetery building since the old station was torn down in May 2012.
During Thursday's dedication ceremony, visitors can see a new piece of metal sculpture that represents a head in profile.
One-half of 1 percent of funding for city government capital projects is earmarked for public art in Ashland.
The public art at the station, titled "Open Minded," was created by Hood River artist C.J. Rench after his design was selected by a panel of community members.
"We're eager for the community to see and welcome 'Open Minded,' " said Carol Davis, chair of the Ashland Public Arts Commission. "It's wonderful to have such a significant piece of public art at that end of town."
She said she hopes the piece becomes an iconic sculpture in the community.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.