After almost a year of living and working in an active construction zone, the Harker Heights Fire Department celebrated the grand opening of its newly renovated Central Fire Station on May 4.
The fire station, on Indian Trail, was built in the 1980s and hadn’t seen significant restorations since.
The $4 million renovation project over the last year brought a number of additions and improvements to the station to better the working lives of the fire fighters and paramedics that spend their time there.
The ceremony took place in the bay of the station with the smell of fresh paint in the air and began with a prayer by Pastor David Morgan of Trinity Baptist Church, posting of the colors by the Fire Department Honor Guard, and a performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” by the Eastern Hills Varsity Women’s Choir.
Harker Heights Mayor Spencer Smith thanked the City Council and the residents of Harker Heights for the opportunity to renovate the station.
“Hopefully we’ve shown good stewardship with the assets that we were able to [use to] afford a facility like this,” said Smith. “We’re able to be a shining example for what Harker Heights is all about.”
Before the ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Commerce and the hose uncoupling to symbolize the opening of the station, Fire Chief Paul Sims acknowledged the patience and hard work of the crewmembers during the period of renovation.
“A project of this magnitude can, and has proven to be challenging,” said Sims.
While the station was under construction, a group of five paramedics and firefighters had to share a singlewide trailer at one time while on duty during each 24-hour shift.
“When they’re on duty, this is where they live, this is where they cook, this is where they eat,” said Smith.
In the old station, sleeping quarters included one large room with only dividers and a shared bathroom, making privacy hard to attain.
The renovations included a new kitchen, larger dining area, eight individual rooms for sleeping, four individual bathrooms, a brand new fitness center, and even a new television area with recliners. A study area that can be converted into an additional bedroom if needed gives the staff of the fire station the option to expand.
Rooms are also equipped with separate alarms for fire and EMS alerts that will gradually increase in volume until the crewmember wakes up, which eliminates jolting them awake.
An Emergency Operating Room that also functions as a training center for crewmembers is fortified to withstand severe weather so that work can continue no matter the conditions outside. Emergency generators were also installed to keep the station functioning at all times.
In the old station “we had everything that we needed, but it was just a lot of a matter of repair, a lot of things just getting old over time,” said Rene Fernandez, firefighter and paramedic.
“We’re a lot more organized now with the way that we have everything set up.”
More storage for gear and new offices for administrative staff were also added.
Much of the motivation to renovate the old station was needed to update the technology and functionality of the facility.
“A lot of the challenges were because this is a 30-year-old building that needed to be run up to the current codes,” said J.R. Andrews, superintendent with Hill and Wilkinson General Contractors, which completed the renovations.
The builders worked closely with the design and architectural team, MRB Group, as well as assessing the needs of the fire station with Deputy Fire Chief Glenn Gallenstein and Fire Chief Sims, Andrews said.
“We wanted to give them what they wanted, and what they needed,” he said.
“The production of this facility was an all-hands effort,” said Smith. “From the staff of the city of Harker Heights, everybody had a little piece to participate in, and that just goes to show you what Team Harker Heights is all about.”