Fire stations are a central part of any city’s emergency services. They house firefighting equipment and vehicles and also support the fire department’s administrative staff. They can be as small or as large as necessary, depending on the size and needs of the city.
Typical fire station building design includes industrial spaces for the apparatus bay, vehicle maintenance and storage, administrative areas, training space, and residential space for firefighters. They may include dormitories, sleeping and living quarters for the crew or shift, a day room/kitchen, shower facilities, fitness areas, and other residential spaces for the firefighter’s comfort and convenience.
The number of companies that answer a first alarm and respond to subsequent alarms depends on the total force, the type of fire hazard in the area where a fire breaks out, and the total population served by the fire department. More fire companies are required in densely populated or congested areas than in sparsely settled areas. In a relatively small city, the fire company that answers the first alarm normally also answers all subsequent alarms.
Service Area Boundaries — The boundaries of each firehouse’s service area, measured in travel-miles, are usually diamond shaped, as shown in Illustration 7 from the Anchorage plan or in the Wichita report. The companies’ service area boundaries overlap on the first alarm, but they are assigned in a strict order of dispatch, and they must be reinforced if anyone is called away from their primary station to serve elsewhere.
Barriers to Access — Topographic features, such as hills, rivers, flat land subject to flood, and man-made structures (railyards, freeways, airports), as well as traffic congestion, block fire apparatus from accessing their primary service area. They also reduce the effective size of the service area by requiring time-consuming detours and adding to the distance fire fighters must travel to get to their engines and trucks.
Special Firefighting Agent Storage & Maintenance Spaces
A fire station may also contain a dedicated storage area for fire fighting agents such as hose, water, and foam, including all necessary plumbing connections and utility lines. The agent storage area is often a single-story structure, and it can be attached to the main fire house building for ease of loading and unloading.
Quality of Life for Firefighters
Increasingly, the firefighter quality of life is becoming more important in fire station design. Many fire departments are providing dorm rooms for their personnel and providing separate beds and lockers. This type of arrangement provides more privacy than shared dormitories and enables the firefighters to have their own work/sleep schedules.
In addition to this, firefighters are increasingly being provided with wall-beds or “Murphy-beds.” These are individual beds that can be moved from one room to another in the same fire station and are very convenient for firefighters.
Some departments have gone so far as to build their entire stations with wall-beds, even though they can’t accommodate all the firefighters. This arrangement also saves on construction costs by minimizing site requirements.