EAST PROVIDENCE — Acting East Providence Fire Department Chief Oscar Elmasian and company Monday, July 29, led a group of dignitaries including Senator Jack Reed on a tour of the renovations being done to Station 4 located on Wampanoag Trail.
Sen. Reed and the rest of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation played an integral role in funneling federal grant money to the city for the project, a $6-plus million undertaking that also includes significant upgrades to the EPFD Headquarters at Station 1 located on Broadway. East Providence was the only city or town in the state to receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for use on fire safety improvements.
The work at Station 4, which began in earnest earlier this calendar year, is well underway and actually nearing completion. Chief Elmasian expects the building to be operational by October. Construction at Station 1, hit by fits-and-starts, remains slightly behind schedule.
While Station 1 remains in service during renovation, Station 4 was in need of a near complete overhaul and personnel were moved to a temporary location further down the Trail on Amaral Street. The company has taken up residence in a former Verizon hub for the past nine months.
The footprint Station 4 is growing by half during the renovation, going from about 6,600 square feet to 10,000. Living quarters and office space are being enlarged on the east side of the building. In the rear, storage space, including that for an Emergency Medical Services decontamination area, is being increased. Also, a new and larger third bay is being constructed on the west side, which will accommodate current and potentially larger vehicles in the future.
“We’ve been (at Amaral Street) since November of 2012. The moving process wasn’t too bad. It’s just like when you move into a house. You pack everything up and take it with you,” Captain David Rave, house captain for Station 4. “The big thing that made it easy was the people I have working for me. They were terrific. They all were there to help. We were able to move everything in one day, while still being responsive to all the calls.”
Twenty firefighters, including officers, were affected by the change in location. The firefighters work in four shifts with five personnel on each, three with the engine company and two with the rescue.
“It’s taken some coordination on our part. The transition was pretty smooth. Our response times have been a little off and the road isn’t the best. We’re all really looking forward to the new place. The old place definitely served its purpose, but it definitely needed infrastructure improvements. Much of the roof needed to be repaired. You couldn’t see it from far away, but up close the brick was crumbling. It just needed to be fixed,” said Capt. Rave.
He continued, “We added the third bay and a lot of storage space. We always have trailers and boats and other equipment coming in and out of here that we need to store. In the old place we never had anywhere to put it. Even with the added bay, it’s going to fill up really quickly.”
The new Station 4 with its increased living area and elevator will be fully compliant with National Fire Protection Association 1500 standards as well as with federal Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
“Just like the old place did for 50 years, I think this new station will serve the city well for another 50 years,” Capt. Rave added. “I think it’s important for the people of the city to be made aware of the improvements. We’re not the only ones who are going to benefit from the new place. The whole city really will benefit from them.”
Chief Elmasian expressed similar sentiments, noting the advantages residents will gain from the upgrades in equipment available to his department. He also commended the members of his department for their devotion to the renovation projects.
“Our people have put in hours and hours and hours of time in with no pay. They’ve done a lot of work that will go unnoticed. I can’t say enough about our personnel, both in dedication to the project and how they’ve conducted themselves during the construction,” said Chief Elmasian. “They’ve communicated with the architects through me when they’ve seen things that weren’t being done right or could be improved. They’ve put much more time in this during their off-duty hours than when they’ve been on the job.
“Again, I can’t say enough about the commitment of the East Providence Fire Department personnel during these projects. They’ve created an environment not only for themselves but for firefighters in the future to serve the city for at least the next 50 years if not beyond. They have been tremendous.”