CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — The Vischer Ferry Volunteer Fire Department is seeking to replace the aging Fire Station No. 3 on Moe Road with a three bay building that will accommodate larger vehicles and increase the safety of the department’s firefighters.
Site plans for the new 7,200-square-foot building were submitted the Clifton Park Planning Department earlier this month and reviewed by the Planning Board Wednesday.
The application wants the board approval to demolish the 40-year-old two-bay station house at 276 Moe Road and build a larger structure at the same location. The size of the present station is believed to be approximately 3,500-square-feet.
Besides the additional vehicle bay, the new building would have a defined, separate space where firefighters can remove their clothing or turnout gear after an event and wash it on site.
Such a design would put the department in compliance with the National Fire Protective Association (NFPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.
“The firehouse is not safe enough,” said Kevin Bowman, chairman of the department’s Board of Fire Commissioners. “We needed to renovate it to bring it into compliance but when we priced out the renovation we saw it was cheaper to build a new one.”
Bowman said the department held public meetings on the need for getting a new station in October and November and then held a vote on getting financing for the design and construction. Once the voters approved going after the financing the department took out $$4.25 million in bonds.
The department will use $400,000 from its building reserve fund also to help pay for the new station.
The estimates for the design and construction are approximately $3.9 million and if they hold true, Bowman said the total amount of the bonds will be reduced.
“We had no problem with the vote,” Bowman said. “We presented a plan for station house that was practical, meets our needs; one without a lot the frills and extras.”
Bowman said the design of the building will be similar to Station No. 1 on Riverview Road.
“The vehicle bays will be in the middle and the area for washing firefighters’ turnout gear will be on the left of that,” Bowman said. “That part of the building on the right side will be an area where the gear is not allowed; it’s an area we refer to as the clean side of the building.”
Bowman said separating clean areas from dirty areas in fire stations, something that is being pressed more and more through health regulations is not possible in the current building.
In fact, because of the building’s design and the lack of space for such designated rooms the firefighters’ gear is now stored in the back of the apparatus bays, an area that is also being used by firefighters as a changing room. It’s a situation that NFPA highly discourages.
“And remember, the trucks have all become larger because NFPA requires all firefighters to be enclosed in the trucks, helmets can no longer be in the cab with you, and there are more things like that,” he said. “There’s a lot of requirements and those requirements make for a bigger truck.”
In discussing the demands on an all-volunteer fire department and the constant effort to recruit volunteers Bowman noted that back in the 1980s if the fire department got 100 calls a year it was considered a lot. Now, he said, the number is between 400 and 600 calls per year and increasing.
“We’re very very fortunate,” he said. “We have between 50 and 60 active volunteers.”
Bowman said one of the things happening in the field due to fewer volunteers is fire departments having to switch to vehicles that hold items that used to be carried in two separate trucks. The Vischer Ferry Department has an engine-rescue truck on order just for that reason.
The new apparatus will replace two vehicles, a fire engine and a rescue truck.
“Because it’s becoming harder and harder to get membership, you want your initial team that arrives first to have everything they might need because you may not get another team out,” he said. “That’s kind of where the future is heading with volunteers. We need a truck that’s multi-purposed.”
When the department takes possession of the new engine-rescue truck, Bowman said the department’s water rescue gear would be put on the truck; something that would have gone on a separate vehicle in the past.