Green Fire Service: Red Engines, Green Strategies

T he 1970s gave birth to Earth Day and the environmentalist movement. Since then, society at large – including the fire service – has been reducing, re-using and recycling as they “go green.”In the 1970s fire service, diesel apparatus were...


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Saving Water = Saving Money

Of course, water is also used for a variety of daily tasks and necessities, and fire departments have responded by making improvements to their stations to reduce this usage. In Baltimore, MD, these improvements include solar water heating and reduced-flow plumbing fixtures, along with the filtering of non-potable water for use in washing apparatus. Raleigh, NC, is well on the way to more efficient energy management as part of an overall city commitment to the environment. The city, for example, has gone so far as to remove light bulbs from vending machines in public buildings on its path to energy reduction. All told, the Raleigh Fire Department has solar panels in place at one station, with plans to add six more. Rainwater catch basins are being installed at others, with a major cistern planned for the training academy. A garden roof has been placed on yet another station. All of their facilities are being converted to LED lighting and motion-sensor switching.

“The fire service, like everyone else, is affected by the rising cost of energy,” Chief John McGrath said. “By being smarter, we can redirect our resources to other areas while saving the taxpayers money.”

Pump testing is also an area where departments have been cutting down on water use. While facilities that allowed the discharge of hoselines back into the drafting pit have existed for some time, there are private services that will now deliver a closed-circuit testing unit right to the fire station to accomplish the same results.

In 2005, Livermore-Pleasanton, CA, constructed a fire station that meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards. As such, a significant amount of planning went into both materials and design. Three-quarters of the occupied space receives natural sunlight, and extensive use was made of photovoltaics, or solar panels. Interior finishes had low off-gassing characteristics, and recycled materials were heavily used. This ranged from the inclusion of fly ash in concrete to the products chosen for flooring, ceiling, and walls. A low water landscape was installed and Energy Star-qualified appliances specified.

 

The “Greening”

Of Fire Stations

San Diego, CA; Cincinnati, OH; and a number of other U.S. cities have also completed “green” fire stations. Some came as part of strategies that encompassed all municipal construction. Scottsdale, AZ, became the first to receive a LEED Platinum certification for its Station 2 in 2009. Platinum is the highest ranking recognized by the Green Building Council, which uses a rating scale to rank facilities in a number of different categories. (For more information on the Green Building Council and previous eco-friendly fire service facilities, see “How Green Was My Station?” in the January 2008 issue of Firehouse®.)

According to Interim Fire Chief Garret Olson, “It would be irresponsible in this era to build new fire stations in extreme weather climates, like we have in the desert Southwest, without considering design and construction modifications that minimize the aggravating and maximize the benefiting factors of our environment.”

The interim chief pointed out another prime reason for going green – firefighter safety – and provided the following background from their construction project: “Firefighters are exposed to a variety of potentially harmful chemicals, smoke and other environmental risks on the job. The fire station was built using low-carbon-emitting materials, including adhesives, sealants, paints, carpet and wood. Prior to occupancy, the building was flushed for two weeks with outside air to improve indoor air quality by removing any remnants of construction dust, odor, particulate matter and contaminants.”