Relocation program provides proper coverage and augments manpower
IN THIS ISSUE
A YARDSTICK FOR IMPROVEMENT
RESPONSE DISTANCE is an important factor in fire fighting strategy and proper location of fire companies is closely scrutinized by rating engineers. The 1949 grading report of the National Board of Fire Underwriters disclosed two major weaknesses of the Rochester Fire Bureau. One was the inadequate distribution of fire stations. The commissioner of public safety referred these problems to the recommendation committee of the fire bureau and the bureau of municipal research.
It was apparent that Rochester’s fire stations were constructed to accommodate horse-drawn apparatus. The stables were converted for apparatus space and personnel quarters but the locations remained the same. Modern motorized apparatus had increased the range and capacity of fire fighting equipment and more manpower was certainly necessary to properly exploit the capabilities of this apparatus.
The city had expanded outward, creating large unprotected areas on the periphery. At the same time, the congested high-value areas had shifted and expanded. Street patterns had changed and many new alterations, such as the Inner and Outer Highway Loop were contemplated.
Over the years, as the Rochester fire service evolved, volunteers had been replaced with paid men. Operating costs per company had increased so that a modern, properly manned company now costs from $80,000 to $110,000 per year. The National Board recommended the building of stations to house three new pumper companies and one new truck company.
New modern fire stations housing two companies can be constructed for approximately $175,000. Such stations can be built to better serve the firemen and the modern-day equipment. It is, therefore, not economical to operate old stations which are improperly located and waste manpower and apparatus.
At the time, Rochester, in comparison with many other cities, had a high proportion of firemen. It was the fifth highest of 31 cities of comparable size which were surveyed. It was decided therefore to survey the city for proper location of fire stations.
Chief Hurley was appointed to the fire bureau on February 6, 1938. Assigned to Engine 18, he was transferred to the fire college in April 1942. During World War II he served with the Army, returning to the fire bureau after his discharge in October 1944. Promoted to lieutenant in March 1945, he was assigned to the arson squad. He was made captain in February 1948 and in January 1954 was promoted to battalion chief and assigned to duty as deputy fire marshal. He was transferred to the position of officer-in-charge at the newly completed fire academy in August 1954, and promoted to deputy chief in January 1956. On May 1, 1958, he was promoted to his present position as executive deputy chief. He is presently vice chairman of the county fire advisory board.
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Our basic problem consisted of having too many companies improperly located for modem methods of fire fighting. Present locations would not be considered except for the headquarters station built in 1937, Main and Wisconsin station built in 1951, and Chestnut Street station which was under construction. The standards of the National Board of Fire Underwriters were used in determining the locations of proposed stations. These requirements are:
In addition, 12 pumpers are to be located within 3 miles of congested high-value area.
The shape of the city’s boundary, availability of land, street patterns and location of hospitals, bridges, schools and high-value areas were other items that had to be considered. Proposed sites were picked on a trial-and-error basis. Each location was mapped and actual running routes were measured. Colored overlays, conforming to required running limits were then prepared and used to denote the amount of overlapping coverage. This method also insured that no areas were outside the required distances.
It was soon apparent that it would not be necessary to increase the number of companies as had been suggested by the National Board if the existing companies were relocated. Actually, it would be possible to eliminate five pumper companies. The manpower from these companies could then be used to augment the remaining companies so that minimum manpower requirements of the National Board could be met.
Designed for dual companies
Many of the fire stations had been built to house single companies. It was decided, early in our planning, to build all new stations with enough space to house at least one pumper and one truck company. Adequate space would also be necessary on the apparatus floor for reserve vehicles. Adoption of this suggestion enabled us to follow a master plan for the building of most of the new stations.
The final plan suggested that the three houses previously mentioned be retained. Six other stations should be remodeled and nine new stations should be built. The following table will graphically describe the total change recommended:
The committee proposed that the city council adopt this program and schedule the building of the stations over a period of 10 years. The fire bureau agreed to the immediate closing of the five pumper companies if this plan was adopted. It was necessary to carefully schedule the construction of the new stations so that the plan would receive Underwriters approval at each stage. The possibility always existed that the financial picture of a city may change and a change in administration might also interfere with this type of program.
We are happy to report that the program continues although delays have occurred. To date, one station has been remodeled and six new stations have been completed. Construction for another new station was scheduled to begin in July 1960.
These new stations are well lighted and completely air-conditioned. All are well landscaped and adequate parking facilities for the men’s cars are provided. Modern kitchens with electric ranges, dishwashers and garbage disposal units are furnished. They are equipped with intercommunication systems so that only the necessary company is alerted. Although the lounges are more than adequate, a separate room is available for a library and study. Washing machines and dryers are furnished so that the firemen can launder their fatigue uniforms. While meeting the needs of the fire bureau and the standards of the National Board, another important factor not to be overlooked is the effect on company morale.