Edinburg is planning to build a new fire station to replace its crumbling headquarters

Edinburg firefighters Alex Zajac, 22, and Jacob Michael, 24, with Fire Chief Jesse Baughman. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

Edinburg firefighters are ready for a new firehouse.

The facility at 6727 Tallmadge Road was designed to serve a volunteer fire department, but about six years ago, officials saw an increased demand for firefighters in the area, so they began to staff the department full time with two firefighters per 12-hour shift.

The current facility isn’t equipped to house staff. It lacks a sufficient kitchen, adequate sleeping provisions and only has one shower, which makes it difficult and hazardous for multiple firefighters to clean decontaminates off their gear and their bodies after a fire call.

The building also suffers from flooding, decay and the lack of a sufficient concrete driveway apron that allows the department’s fire engines to maneuver without obstructing traffic on Tallmadge Road.

So, officials at the Edinburg Fire Department are in the process of gaining approval from township officials to build a new firehouse.

Water damage due to flooding and a faulty septic system has eroded the walls of the garage inside the fire station. Jeremy Brown/The Portager
Jeremy Brown/The Portager
Jeremy Brown/The Portager

Edinburg Township Trustee Jeff Bixler said it could take six to eight months to get the needed permits authorized and to get EPA approval, but once that part of the process is out of the way, architect Frank Pavliga and engineer Mike Wohlwend will begin drafting plans for a new structure, which is projected to be finished two years from now.

“We have a very good idea of what we want,” Bixler said. “The architects will take that and put it into play and give us a cost. When we get that cost, we’re going to take it to the people of the township to see if they’ll vote on whether we decide to put it on as a levy or as a bond issue. We’ll put it on the ballot.”

Bixler said there’s no doubt that Edinburg township officials will vote in favor of a new fire station because the upgrade is necessary for the safety of the community.

The department will also seek state funding to help offset the cost of the proposal, which is projected to cost $3.5 to $4 million.

Jeremy Brown/The Portager

The west wing of the existing building was built around 1935 and originally housed the township garage and the volunteer fire department. Around 1950, an east wing was built that included two more bays, a modest living quarters, a hose tower and not much else, but enough to sustain a volunteer fire department for the area.

Nowadays, the department sees more and more calls every year — already 400 this year — which Bixler said is “quite a lot for a small department like Edinburg.”

One of the main concerns the department faces is the absence of a proper facility for decontamination after a fire.

“When firefighters come in from a fire call, it’s recommended that we decon,” Edinburg Fire Department Chief Jesse Baughman said. “[We] separate our soiled gear from everything else and then immediately shower to remove all the carcinogens that our bodies absorb. With only one shower, that makes it very difficult to isolate the carcinogens from the living area.”

Edinburg Firefighter Jacob Michael, 24. The fire station has recently decided to use hose dryers to dry hoses after a call, as opposed to using their hose tower. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

The new fire house is planned to include strategically located, gender-specific showers and locker rooms that will help streamline the decontamination process and keep fire contaminants away from the living quarters.

Sleeping quarters, the kitchen and the living area will also be upgraded, and additional space will be made for training purposes, as well as a fitness room.

Just last year, the department was void of a fitness area. Since then, the staff has made an effort to amass a small collection of gym equipment, although there’s not enough space to use it without a hassle.

“We currently have it set up behind a tanker in one of our lower bays,” Firefighter Kylee Phillips said. “It’s not in the best place, because we need that area for storage. Having a nicer area or a bigger space to be able to put the gym equipment in would be really nice. When you’re working out, you kind of have to move things around, and it just isn’t ideal.”

Beyond the concerns for more space to carry out procedural operations and improve living quarters, the present structure suffers from flooding because the foundation sits lower than the road and the septic system is inadequate.

“The septic system is outdated,” Baughman said. “The building’s old, the drain lines back up when we get heavy rain, the cinder blocks in the lower bay are deteriorating away and causing some issues. We have a lot of water leaks in the roof system. So these are just a few of the things.”

Edinburg Fire Chief Jesse Baughman stands in front of the corner lot where the new fire station is proposed to be built. The land was donated to the fire station by the late Dale and Eileen McKown around 25 to 30 years ago. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

The new structure is planned to be constructed on a lot at the corner of state Route 14 and Tallmadge Road. The lot is adjacent to the existing fire station and was donated to the fire department by the late Dale and Eileen McKown around 25 to 30 years ago.

The location of the new fire department will provide a larger concrete apron and driveway for engines to sit outside the garage without obstructing Tallmadge Road, as well as allow for the engines to more easily exit and enter the station.

“We’re going to have pull-through bays,” Baughman said. “Our plan is, we would enter the station parking lot off of state Route 14, and exit primarily off of 18, Tallmadge Road.”

The existing firehouse has an extended roof cupola that serves as a hose tower, where hoses are hung to dry after use, but Baughman explained that the advances in new technology has allowed the department to move away from using the tower.

“Right now we’re opting out to not have a hose tower because of the added expense,” Baughman said. “A few years back, we were able to purchase a hose dryer. We can put our hose in this dryer and dry it that way, so we won’t need the hose tower.

“Also, as we replace older hose with newer hose, it doesn’t require to be as dry before repacking as the older hose, because of the advances in the materials that are used nowadays. It’s mildew resistant.”

Mold and mildew cause the hoses to break down and fail.

The estimate for the new fire station includes a replacement for the station’s main fire engine, which will cost $1 million and has a lead time of two to three years.

“Our main engine is 22 years old,” Bixler said. “You are supposed to replace or refurbish a fire truck every 20 years. They go through yearly testing to make sure they meet the standards of the NFPA [National Fire Protection Association]. We talked about trying to get it refurbished, and they said the pump is so old, there’s probably not any parts to get it rebuilt anymore, so not only are we in need of a fire station, we are in need of a main engine right now. A new engine may not fit in this bay.”

The department also has plans to include a crisis facility for victims who require a safe space in case of an emergency.

“We’re not building an elaborate high-class type building,” Bixler said. “We’re building what the township residents would need for their protection over the next 30, 40 years.”

Jeremy Brown
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