Sunday, July 27, 2003

Upgraded fire station in Blue Ash gets nearer

By Jeremy W. Steele
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BLUE ASH - Anticipation is building among this city's 27 full-time and 14 part-time firefighters.

"This is going to be so nice," said Fire Chief Jim Fehr, grinning inside the $6.1 million north fire station under construction at Kenwood and Creek roads. "We'll finally be able to do training when we need to."

The current Cooper Road firehouse, which dates to 1974 and was expanded in the 1980s, was built when the department was a volunteer force. A former station at the site of the new building also was designed for a strictly volunteer crew.

Now, Blue Ash needs a building that can accommodate full-time firefighters' shifts and intense training. Firefighters work 24 hours straight, so they need full-fledged living quarters.

Although the current station has some of these features, there's not space to expand the building.

"This is their home," said Fehr, standing in the living quarters of the new station. "A third of their lives are spent with the people they work with."

The two-story building's brick facade is nearly finished and much of the drywall has been hung. But city officials say poor winter and spring weather has delayed the project's opening until at least October.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony had been planned for Aug. 8; Fehr now hopes to have an open house at the 30,000-square-feet building during Fire Prevention Week, which is Oct. 5-11.

The new station will allow the city to operate two full-time firehouses for the first time. One, near the municipal building, will primarily serve the city's south side, while the new station covers the growing north side.

"Over the past 20 years, Blue Ash has grown differently from what we thought," city Treasurer Jim Pfeffer said. "We really needed to put a fire station near the center of the city and this does that."

The new building should allow emergency response times to be cut from nine minutes to get to some parts of Blue Ash to about five minutes across the city.

But perhaps just as important to firefighters, the building is designed with numerous features to use for training exercises.

A four-story tower - which crews have traditionally used to dry their hoses - is equipped to train firefighters for high-rise blazes. Water is sprayed into the tower, simulating fire sprinklers, and windows at the top allow crews to conduct rescues from the outside.

A 30-inch drain tube in the basement that's connected to a manhole on the first floor provides a training environment for confined-space rescues.

The building also includes a fitness center, administrative offices, training classroom and emergency command center.

"We tried to include everything we could think of," Fehr said.


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