Swissvale's two fire departments showed off their new fire station to residents on Sunday with tours, activities and food.
The borough is served by paid and volunteer fire departments, which have consolidated forces at the new fire station. And both were on hand to greet visitors and take them on a tour as a kickoff to Fire Prevention Week, which runs from Oct. 7 to 13.
Financing for the new facility comes through a package of government grants, proceeds from the sale of the existing volunteer fire department station and low-interest loans.
David Nickel, president of the Swissvale Volunteer Fire Department, led one of the tours, starting on the first floor. He showed the training-meeting room, which will also serve as a polling place for elections and the command center for the borough's emergency management team.
A commercial kitchen is equipped with deep fryers and a serving window for the annual fish fries held by the volunteer department and other fundraisers.
A decon room is set for firefighters to decontaminate, if needed. Another room includes hose and gear dryers.
A fitness room features CrossFit equipment so that public safety workers can stay in shape for their jobs, Nickel said. In fact, the two fire departments have three certified CrossFit instructors. The padded floor in the fitness room is actually stable mat, which is used for horses to sleep on, but in this case provides for easy wash up and also saved a significant amount of money over conventional padding, Nickel said.
On the second floor, there are two bunkrooms for men and women, though Nickel joked that it might end up "snorers" and "non-snorers." There are also separate shower and locker rooms for career (paid) firefighters and live-ins. The locker room contains a washer for uniforms.
After returning from a call, firefighters can relax in recliners in a theater room with surround sound and a large-screen television donated by Swissvale Fire Chief Clyde Wilhelm.
Nickel called the kitchen the "centerpiece" of the living quarters—the place where the day starts. The room features two large stainless steel refrigerators, an island stovetop with a built-in grill and a large dining table, all purchased at a great savings. He said the career firefighters had some extra money in their house fund and pitched in to buy the stove-top grill.
While the bay area has high ceilings, Nickel said all the heating is infrared and is driven back down from the ceiling with large fans.
Swissvale is one of the few communities in Allegheny County served by a combination paid-volunteer fire department. The combined Swissvale companies respond to about 1,000 emergency medical calls and 500 fire calls annually.
Adjacent to the new station, the former Strathers Funeral Home at 7400 Irvine St., has been remodeled to create office and administrative space for the consolidated fire departments.
Since about 1970, the borough’s paid staff has operated out of the borough building on Roslyn Street and the volunteers have had their own station on Washington Avenue, Nickel said. They had served together at the borough building from about 1910 until then, when the volunteer department needed more room for their equipment and also wanted a place for fundraising activities.
Nickel said the move to combine facilities make sense, given the borough is 1.3 square miles and has only 9,000 residents.
"Everyone's been working very well together," Nickel said.
Watch Patch on Wednesday for a story on the new fire truck.