The 1980s are history. And now Lawrence firefighters have an additional fire station - the first since 1982 - to prove it.
Crews with Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical began moving into their new $4.4 million station and administrative headquarters at 19th Street and Stewart Avenue on Friday. Firefighters and paramedics are expected to begin running calls out of the station late next week.
"We feel like we're going to have the best coverage of the community possible now," Fire Chief Mark Bradford said.
The new station is a major part of the department's strategy to meet a national fire safety guideline of responding to 90 percent of calls within six minutes of the time they are reported. Currently, the department meets the six-minute standard about 70 percent of the time. Bradford said the new station would push that percentage higher, although he said the 90 percent guideline still would be difficult to reach.
"Any improvement is important," Bradford said. "For every minute that someone is pulseless and not breathing, their chance of survival drops by 10 percent. And a fire grows by 10 percent for every minute it is not suppressed."
Grateful to KU
City leaders touted the new station's location, at the southeast corner of 19th and Iowa streets, as a great spot for a fire station.
"It is really almost an ideal location," said interim City Manager David Corliss. "You are right there on 19th and on Iowa, and you're not far from Bob Billings Parkway and Clinton Parkway."
The new station also will put fire crews across the street from one of the more densely populated portions of the city - the Kansas University dormitories on Daisy Hill. The KU Endowment Association donated the use of the four-acre site partially for that reason.
The Endowment Association also stipulated that the city move its Hazardous Material Unit to the new station, which will put it closer to KU's research laboratories. The Endowment Association also asked the department to move its 100-foot ladder truck from downtown to the new station so it would be close to the tall buildings on campus. The downtown fire station is getting a new fire engine with a 75-foot ladder.
"We're very grateful to the Endowment Association and to KU," Corliss said. "The facility has really been very much needed."
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City leaders are planning an open house at the station this summer. Here's a look at some of the station's features:
¢ 8,000 square feet for the department's 14 administrative staff members, who had been stationed at the downtown fire station and two other fire stations in town. Bradford said the increased efficiency of having the administration team in one building was expected to be one of the new station's larger benefits.
¢ 28,000 square feet of fire station space. That makes the station the largest in the city, with about 8,000 square feet more than most stations in the city.
¢ four 100-foot-long garage bays that will house two fire trucks, an ambulance and other specialized equipment. The station will be staffed by a full-time crew of 11.
¢ 16 dormitories, men's and women's showers, a fully equipped fitness room, a kitchen and a living room area for the firefighters. The station was built with additional dormitories to accommodate growth.
The city this year hired nine firefighters - at an annual cost of about $375,000 per year - to help staff the station. The additional staffing came from some consolidation, such as using two staff members on an ambulance instead of three.
The city also purchased a new $700,000 fire engine and has added about $100,000 a year in other operating expenses.
Costs for the station had been a concern during planning for the building. Douglas County commissioners - who pay 25 percent of the department's budget - originally balked when bids for the project came in about $500,000 higher than expected. County commissioners ultimately approved the higher cost, but on a 2-1 vote.
County Commissioner Jere McElhaney opposed moving forward on the project. He wanted the project to be redesigned, eliminating some of the elaborate roof lines, the size and other features of the project.
"It is pretty darn nice," McElhaney said Friday. "It is a good thing it was built with public money, because I don't think the private sector could match it."