When Kenosha’s new Fire Station 1 opens in August, firefighters stationed there will be surrounded by links to Bain School, the former occupant of the site.
The new $7.2 million station, 2210 52nd St., is scheduled to open Aug. 6, with the Kenosha Fire Department holding an open house for the public to tour the facility on July 27. The new station replaces two aging stations.
A long process
Fire Chief Charles Leipzig said creating the new station has been a long process, the first year spent visiting other fire stations around Wisconsin and speaking to fire department officials to decide what design would work best for the Kenosha department. The result, Leipzig said, is a building that better accommodates larger, modern fire trucks and ambulances and that guards firefighter safety with equipment designed to vent diesel fumes and specialized areas where firefighters and paramedics can clean up after being at contaminated or hazardous scenes. Preventing work-related cancer dangers for firefighters was a priority in the design, he said.
The living areas are designed to accommodate a workforce that includes both men and women firefighters, Leipzig said. In one of the changes included, the dormitory area includes half-walls between individual sleeping areas for the 16 people expected to work on each shift. The chief said that, while some fire departments now have individual dorm rooms for firefighters, the half walls in the new station preserve the camaraderie of the living areas while giving firefighters a measure of privacy when they are sleeping. In addition to the equipment and living areas in the building, there is a training area and space to accommodate future growth, including room for additional vehicles.
“I didn’t think it would be responsible to build a new building and not plan for future growth,” the chief said.
Links to Bain School
Along with designing a building for a modern fire department, Leipzig said, the design also includes a series of links to the former Bain School built on the sight in 1906. The school, which had been vacant, was torn down to make way for the new station.
The original capstone for the school is above the 52nd Street public entrance. He said demolition crews found the capstone as they were taking apart the old school. “Since 1953, you couldn’t see that capstone” because it was covered by an addition to the school, Leipzig said.
The entryway to the training room in the building includes a wooden door from the school, and the 1953 cornerstone from a school addition is built into the front facade of the station. A fence along 52nd Street is made from crushed stone from the demolished school.
And when firefighters sit down to meals in the station’s new kitchen, it will be at a homemade table made from salvaged materials. “The firefighters are building a table from the original flooring taken from the third floor of the school. It was milled in 1902,” Leipzig said.
The new station will replace Station 3, 2121 Roosevelt Road, and Station 5, 2125 Washington Road. “The two stations we’re replacing are collectively over 100 years old,” Leipzig said. He said both needed expensive repairs to remain viable, with city officials deciding that it did not make sense to invest millions of dollars in the aging buildings.
According to the statement from the city, both buildings will be repurposed.
The new station was funded with a $5 million low-interest federal loan, the balance through city funds. The fire chief said the project has come in slightly under budget. “I couldn’t be happier with it,” he said of the project.
Negligible impact on response times
Leipzig said that consolidating two stations into one will have a negligible impact on response times to the areas that surround the existing stations. He said ambulances are dispatched by a GPS system that sends the closest emergency equipment to the call, with rigs responding from wherever they are — whether leaving a hospital or another scene — to calls.
He said the department anticipates that personnel based at the new Station 1 will handle 7,000 calls a year. “Over half our call volume will come through here,” he said.
District 6 Alderman Dave Paff, whose district includes the existing Station 5, said residents of his district are upset about their station closing. "They're very unhappy, especially the senior citizens." Paff, a retired paramedic, said, and the new station is about a mile from Station 5 and he estimates that response times will be about three minutes longer to homes north of Washington Road. "It's unfortunate for the residents of the north side."
Despite those concerns, Paff said, he said he is pleased that Kenosha firefighters will have a state-of-the-art facility.
"They deserve the best," he said.