By Jim Newell
It’s been a six-month process, but renovations on fire station 1 in the village are now complete and the Orion Township firefighters will host an “open station” to let the community see the new building.
The open house event for station 1, at 93 S. Anderson St., begins with a “hose-cutting” at 10 a.m. Oct. 14, when firefighters will cut a length of decommissioned fire hose with a saw.
Activities run until 1 p.m. and include a CPR station, bounce house, face painting, a chance for kids to meet with firefighters, explore the fire engines, see the firefighter’s equipment and tour the remodeled station.
Firefighters also are partnering with the police and will have the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) on site, giving parents the opportunity to have their child fingerprinted and photographed. Parents will then get a CD with all of their child’s pertinent information – such as height, weight, eye color – to have readily available in the event that their child is lost or missing.
“We would like to thank the community for their support and patience while we did this, and the township and township board for giving us what we needed,” said Fire Chief Rob Duke. “This project has been going on about six months, it started the day I started, on Aug. 2. That’s pretty good for renovating an entire station.”
There were no major setbacks or problems with the $2.6 million renovation, and Duke said the project will come in at or under budget.
The Orion Twp. Board of Trustees approved renovating the 40-year-old station to bring it up to current standards. The township had considered building a new station on Atwater Street, but officials said the cost of a new station would be greater than renovating the existing station.
Fire station 1 became operational again on Oct. 4, with firefighters moving back in to staff the station fulltime.
Firefighters and Star EMS did maintain a presence in the village during the station’s construction but had been working out of Station 4 on Baldwin Road, Duke said.
“The station outlasted its lifespan by a long time,” said Assistant Chief John Pender. “There’s a new vehicle exhaust system, which is extremely important. And technology, safety and security, down to showers that work properly.”
The vehicle exhaust system allows firefighters to hook up an accordion-type tube to the fire truck exhausts while crews are working on the vehicles so that firefighters are not breathing in toxic fumes, said Lt. Chris Hagan.
Renovations also included a complete remodel of the exterior of the building, with new bricks, roof, parking lot and landscaping.
Among the biggest renovation needs were adding facilities for the female firefighters, who did not have separate shower or restroom facilities before.
“So, we had to put up signs and block things off when they needed to use those facilities,” said Hagan.
In addition to adding a women’s bathroom, shower and locker room – and upgrading the men’s facilities – the remodel also added a bedroom to help with staffing the station 24-7 and upgraded HVAC throughout the station and heating systems in the fire truck bays.
“Everything’s LED efficient, the whole green initiative was incorporated by the architects,” Duke said.
“There were three bays for fire trucks before the remodel, but one bay was converted to provide more space for a maintenance area, an office and allow for increasing the size of the restroom/locker room facilities for both male and female firefighters, Pender said.
The fire department will maintain the same number of trucks and apparatus at the station, said Captain Eric Florence.
“I think the biggest thing is the functionality of the station now. The township and the fire department had outgrown the station,” Hagan said.
The project also included adding a paved parking lot with 19 spaces between the fire station and the Orion Art Center. The Lake Orion DDA and Orion Twp. government partnered to pay for the lot.
“One of the benefits to the community is that now there’s a public restroom in the back. It’s at the trailhead of the Paint Creek Trail. The plan is to keep it open 24/7. Plus, the added parking spaces for the trailhead and events and festivals. That’s a huge community benefit,” Duke said.
Updating the station also has cost-saving advantages, from both an efficiency and maintenance standpoint.
“From a cost standpoint, we’re not spending needless money on heating and cooling. Before, the old bay heaters were completely inefficient. They would run just to run half the time,” Florence said. “The parking lot was deteriorating, which wears on your equipment.”
“Maintenance costs. Every time it rained in the old station the roof leaked and we were spending good money after bad just to keep it afloat,” Pender said.
The fire department, as it has done in the past, still plans to take part in community events like Dragon on the Lake and welcomes people to stop by and see the new station.
“150 percent. Even with the old station we would encourage people, if the doors are open, come on in. We’re happy to take people on a tour through the station. This is one of our crown jewels for the department now, so I would anticipate that we will probably see an increase in our community involvement,” Hagan said.
“We had a plan that we followed and it worked out great,” Duke said.