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Fire Station renovations emphasize gender separation

Dickinson Fire Dept. Station 1 is getting some much needed renovations starting Monday. The Phase 1 changes emphasize gender separation and health. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

Dickinson Fire Department begins renovations to Fire Station 1 Monday.

The site, at 25 Second Ave. W., has not had major remodeling done since the 1970s.

The first phase of the remodel will emphasize gender separation and firefighter health.

The remodel is "long overdue," Fire Chief Bob Sivak said.

The building, constructed in the 1930, originally hosted City Hall as well as the fire and police departments. It became a dedicated fire station in 1981.

"When the new fire hall was built, it was provided with a dormitory environment for our firefighters at the time. But now, so much has changed," Sivak said. "We're a diverse fire department. We have both male and female firefighters. A dormitory type environment isn't necessarily the best."

Fire Station 1 hosts firefighters who are on duty full-time, as well as volunteers.

Of the department's 43 firefighters overall, seven are female.

It is a change from the makeup of the department in the 1970s.

"Back in those days, it was all male," Sivak said. "A dormitory environment was no big deal. One bathroom was no big deal."

The change was also inspired by the construction of Dickinson Public Safety Center, at 2475 State Ave. N., in 2015, which also hosts a fire station.

"Not only are we more diverse and have more female firefighters, when this building got finished, with the separate bedrooms and more than one choice in a bathroom... This is really nice," Sivak said. "It really brought home to us that it's time to make some changes."

Upstairs, Fire Station 1 will have more defined bedrooms.

"We're going to have three bedrooms constructed," Sivak said. "We have one bedroom that's going to work already. All of them will be enclosed and separated with their own door."

A second bathroom will also be constructed, including shower facilities.

A laundry will be added to the site, as well.

"We do our own laundry," Sivak said. "All of that is hauled from downtown up here (at the Public Safety Center)."

The remodel will also address potential health risks to firefighters.

"The last couple of years, we've learned so much about the health risks and cancer risks of the environment we end up going into," Sivak said. "We've been trying to be much more cognizant of how we keep things clean."

On the main floor, a bathroom, accessible from the engine bay, will be added.

"If a firefighter comes in from a call and needs to use the restroom, they can go in there with their dirty bunker gear," Sivak said, "and it's not contaminating the rest of the office."

The remodel will not affect the building exterior, only its interior.

"We're utilizing spaces that were once used for something else and remaking them," Sivak said.

A challenge, though, is the site's nearly 40-year-old wiring and plumbing.

"That's where a lot of our cost is coming in," Sivak said. "You don't dig into a building that age without having to do some fairly extensive stuff to plumbing and wiring."

City commissioners had approved $75,000 for Phase 1.

Because the project was expected to cost less than $100,000, it did not need to go to bid, and quotes were requested.

The quotes, though, returned over the budget, and further cuts to Phase 1 could not be made.

Already, plans to remodel the kitchen area had been pushed back to a later phase.

"What we use as a kitchen was actually a part of City Hall, because there's a portion in there that's the vault. It's still there," Sivak said. "We'd like to redo the area to make it a much more usable kitchen for our firefighters."

Sivak requested from City Commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday an increase in the project's budget.

The request was approved, with the funds coming from the city's building fund.

"We're very thankful to the commission that they understood the predicament that we were in," Sivak said.

Some remodeling work has started at Fire Station 1, with the main effort beginning Monday.

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