REPRINTED FROM GAZETTE.com
Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011
Capitol Heights fire station gets renovations
$1.8M upgrades include sprinklers, refurnished dining and classroom space
by Natalie McGill
New sprinklers, an emergency generator and refurbished dining and classroom spaces await firefighters at the Capitol Heights Volunteer Fire Department, where renovations decades in the making are in progress.
The $1.8 million project includes the design, construction and permits to revamp the existing 7,000-square-foot station, which was built in 1964, volunteer chief Jim McClelland said. Renovations began in June and are expected to wrap up in late April or early May.
The station renovations were paid for from the Prince George's County fire department's Capital Improvement Program budget after being on the CIP list for more than 20 years, McClelland said.
"Other than some cosmetic stuff we've done on our own, it's never been renovated," said McClelland, adding the exterior has been painted in previous years.
The priority of the Capitol Heights project may have "fluctuated" as administrations changed throughout the fire department, said Maj. Richard Lambdin of the county's fire/EMS facilities and resource planning office.
"It has been a considerable number of years that the project has been on the books," Lambdin said.
The project also includes renovations to engine bays, sleeping quarters and office space.
The project will not increase the station's square footage but will add such features as exhaust extraction system that Lambdin said removes from workspace contaminates that spew from diesel engines.
A "cardiac-friendly" alert system will be installed to notify firefighters to calls for service, Lambdin added.
"It's a system that doesn't rely on obnoxious bells or alarms that have a detrimental impact on an employee's health constantly being startled by that type of sound," Lambdin said. "The new systems are a voice prompt that provides a voice alerting with the volume increasing gradually as the alert takes place."
The station has 30 active-duty volunteers, compared with the 16 it had in August 2009, McClelland said. At that time, the station lost all 20 of its career personnel when career firefighters were transferred to other stations countywide to reduce overtime spending and account for a drop in county funding. The station also lost its paramedic ambulance to the District Heights Fire Station on Marlboro Pike, which is nearly three miles away.
McClelland credits active recruiting to get the volunteer staff numbers back up. He said he has put in a request to the county's fire/EMS department to have career personnel return to the station.
Officials have no immediate plans to place career personnel in stations that are all-volunteer staffed, county fire/EMS spokesman Mark Brady wrote in a Feb. 3 e-mail to The Gazette. Requests for career staffing are "closely reviewed and given serious consideration," he wrote.
Twenty-eight recruits are scheduled to begin a "Career Recruit School" later this month, Brady wrote, adding that the department is working on a countywide staffing plan that remains a "work in progress."
Officials have no plans to renovate additional stations before the end of fiscal 2011, which ends June 30, Lambdin said, adding that the budget for fiscal 2012 — which begins July 1 — is still being finalized.
McClelland said he is excited for the renovations, adding that the station will continue to function as long as it can and will maximize the staffing it has.
"Our 100th anniversary is coming up in another year or so," McClelland said of the department, which began in 1913 and was incorporated in 1914. "We're not going to have hall rentals or anything like that, but we hope to be able to do some type of fundraising for the station."