East Providence Firefighters adapt to new surroundings
EAST PROVIDENCE — It's a move made out of necessity, and it's one the members of Station 4 knew was coming, but that doesn't mean the transition down the road from Wampanoag Trail to Amaral Street hasn't been a bit of a challenge for the East Providence Fire Department.
Station 4 was closed a few weeks ago in preparation for a near complete facelift as part of $6.4 million in renovations to it and the department's headquarters at Station 1 on Broadway. The latter will remain open during construction. Administrative offices located at Station 1 have been shifted to the Sweetland House on the Senior Center property off Waterman Avenue.
The best available facility for the Station 4 crew to relocate was an empty building about a mile east, the old Verizon hub tucked away on Amaral Street and almost abutting the Shore Expressway, which connects Interstate 195 with Wampanoag Trail.
"Transitions always have a few bumps in the road. We had some issues with computers and phones, but these guys were determined to get it done. And they did, almost overnight," EPFD Chief Joseph Klucznik boasted about the Station 4 crew and others in the department who helped with the move.
"We're trying to utilize every bit of space we can. It's not the most aesthetically pleasing building, but it certainly serves the purpose," the chief added.
The temporary Station 4 digs have become a repository for most of the department's larger equipment, including of good chuck of that from Station 1 as well. The two-story structure has much more storage space than either of the stations it temporarily replaces. It also has an exterior canopy under which the department's utility vehicles, such as hazmat trucks, are placed. In addition, there's ample area on the roughly half-acre footprint to stage training sessions.
The interior of the Amaral Street building serves many purposes. The lower level includes three bays for two trucks and one ambulance. Besides housing equipment and supplies, the first floor has enough rooms to have specific meetings areas, a make-shift gym, a gear room designated to house and dry firefighters' protective clothing and offices for the likes of Captain Mike Carey, who's charged with running the department's grant program, and John Potvin, the EPFD's Emergency Medical Services Director.
"So far, things are going very good," said Director Potvin. "We're able to do things here we weren't at the other stations. We can host meetings right here where before we had to find places to go. I had a meeting here the other day with about 15 or 16 people and they all fit. For things like that, it's working out really well."
Much of the furniture being used, according to Chief Klucznik, has been "scavenged" is some manner. It's been donated, purchased by the firefighters themselves, like the weights and exercise equipment in the workout room, or literally taken off the scrap heap.
"We're doing everything we can to keep the costs to the city down," the chief said.
The second floor makes up the living space for the crew. It has a large open area in the middle. The firefighters' bunks, den and kitchen are on the perimeter along with the shift officer's room and alarm room, where calls are taken and the log is kept. There's also a designated space to hold daily shift briefings. The chief credited Captain David Rave with developing and implementing the building's floor plan.
"For the guys, this is their home away from home," Chief Klucznik said. "They set it up. They're responsible for the daily upkeep, and they're doing a great, great job."
The renovations, which were supposed to begin in earnest at the start of December, were slightly delayed due to last-minute negotiations with contractors. Chief Klucznik said he expects to have all aspects of the contracts completed and ready to be presented to the Budget Commission for its approval at the next meeting of the state over-seers on Thursday, Dec. 13.
Construction at both Stations 1 and 4 is expected to last to next summer. The work must be done in a timely manner in order to meet grant guidelines, where the vast majority of the money for the project is derived.
"I'm sure some things will come up we haven't planned for. They always seem to do," Chief Klucznik concluded. "But this move has been virtually seamless, and it's because of these guys in the building. I can't say it enough. They've done a great, great job."