Pole Building Fire Stations

Scott Norwood and Fire Stations

My loyal readers are going to be amazed at how I manage to tie these two subjects into relating to pole buildings.

To find out, please read on……

For those who are old enough to remember, the 1991 Super Bowl featured the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants. The high flying Buffalo Bills had scored 95 points in winning the two playoff games to get into the Super Bowl, and broke out to an early 12-3 lead. The Giants came back to hold a 20-19 lead as Bills placekicker Scott Norwood lined up for a game winning 47 yard field goal with eight seconds on the clock.

The kick was up – it was long – and it was wide right of the goal post by a foot…..leaving the long suffering (their city’s last championship in any sport coming in 1965) Bills’ fans in agony.

On Saturday night, January 26, I had tucked my five month-old-daughter Bailey in bed and settled in for a long winter’s nap to rest up for the big game the next day. I’d been remodeling my grandparent’s 1909 lake cabin into a year around home – including replacing the ancient Model T garage with a new pole building large enough to park our two vehicles in.

In the middle of the night, I received a call to tell me my new garage was on fire and it was being put out by the Newman Lake Volunteer Fire Department!

It seems the electrician had energized the electrical service to the garage on Friday afternoon, and left it on. Somewhere in the building, a wire was grounded out in a dead attic space. It smoldered from Friday afternoon until very early Super Bowl Sunday. Luckily, one of my summertime only neighbors had decided to brave a winter overnight in their cabin, had gotten up in the wee hours to get a glass of water, and spotted the flames out their kitchen window!

Thanks to the quick response from the fire fighters, most of my pole building was saved – however the contents suffered significant smoke and water damage. This has caused me to be an ardent supporter of our local Fire Department.

Fast forwarding to 2014 – our Fire Department has outgrown its 48 year old current station and had nowhere upon the site to add onto the existing building. The Department owns a 12 acre parcel for a new location and in April voters approved a $1.1 million 20 year bond measure to pay for ½ of the construction costs of a new Fire Station.

The over $2 million new station will house four to five emergency vehicles plus a 5,000 square foot “house” for the fire fighters. My share of this will raise my property taxes by about $120 per year.

While I believe the fire protection improvements will be money well spent, my concern comes from potentially having a building which becomes an edifice to the architect, similar to the two other fire stations which have been built in the eastern portion of our county over recent years.

Pole Building Fire HouseI’ve been involved in several pole building fire houses over the past decades – they are immensely more affordable than their block and stone counterparts and let’s face it – those fire trucks are just as happy out of the weather in either building.

If your Fire Protection District needs a new fire station, I can’t stress enough at looking towards a pole building as a practical and affordable solution.

Oh, and Scott Norwood? He played only one more season in the NFL, following his Super Bowl debacle, making good on only 62% of his field goal attempts. He is currently selling real estate…..in Buffalo!

2 thoughts on “Pole Building Fire Stations

  1. I am a member of a volunteer fire department and I cannot agree more with this. Two of our neighboring departments have fancy brick and mortar buildings. We are the “poorer” of the three, but we get no financial subsidies from the government. We rely mostly on fundraising and the rare time we get a public safety grant. One of our neighboring companies bought some property years back and it took them almost 30 years of aggressive saving and budgeting for their new building. They had simply outgrew their old building. The other company had two pole barns joined together and it was simply falling apart. They were lucky enough that one of their members owned a construction company and just built their new building. We, on the other hand, had remodeled our previous building several times and knew it was falling apart. It took us years and years to save for our new building. We have a pole building that we built and it was just a cookie cutter. It took us almost ten years to finish the customization to the building. We had to put in two kitchens, one for our catering hall, and the other in our board room. We put in the separate bathrooms with two showers in each. We put in a large meeting room, a maintenance tool room, and built a quartermaster room up stairs. The only brick and mortar part of the building is the radio room in the front. With the way our world works, we are constantly evolving. When we built our building, we had only four emergency vehicles (ambulance, pumper, rescue pumper, and tanker). Almost 20 years later, we have a squad, pumper, rescue pumper, tanker, specialized rescue truck, a parade pumper, rescue raft, jet skis for water rescue, and a mule for off road rescue. We are not packed like sardines, but we are floating the idea of building another pole barn for the rescue raft, jet skis, and the mule.
    When we built the building, it was huge, and we designed it that way. We figured there is some drilling we can do since our winters in northwest PA can be brutally cold. We also do most of our vehicle maintenance in the building and the gear racks we have were hand built by our members.
    We were laughed at for our pole building fire station but we didnt have the funds to build an extravagant building. Plus, building the cookie cutter barn, we got to customize it the way we wanted it. The way that worked for us.
    The pole barn fire house worked great for us and we can still continue to customize the building as we see fit and as our needs continue to evolve.
    I would strongly recommend any entity that is on a tight budget to look into the pole buildings. If you are unable to do the contracting work yourself, you could hire the contractors (plumbing, electrical, and hvac). We floated the idea of hiring separate contractors, but we had an ambulance that was in bad need of repair or replacement, and our tanker needed the same. We ended up buying a used ambulance and kind of rebuilding our old one and had to get the rear framework on our tanker rebuilt, all the while trying to build our new building.
    Even as we need an addition or an update, some of the membership built the building, so its easy to go through it to add or update. A couple of times we have built a wall, or removed one. We have had to re route some water pipes, and some electrical has been re arranged for our accommodations.
    So, in closing, I would strongly recommend the pole barns. They give you more flexibility with your needs than your typical brick and mortar. Also, there is a tremendous difference in the price.

    1. Ryan ~ I don’t believe I could have written a more powerful testimonial myself! Whether the budget is tight, or your entity is sitting on a pile of cash – a pole (post frame) building is going to be an economical solution which allows the greatest bang for the investment!


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