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In 2010, Madison, WI, followed suit with Station 12. Geothermal energy is used to reduce dependence on natural gas, a big benefit during the long Wisconsin heating season. Emails sent from the Madison Fire Department bear the slogan “Sprinklers are green. Save your building. Save our environment,” presenting yet another take on the subject. Oakland, CA, Station 18 – a LEED Gold building – shows the diversity by which energy reduction and recycling can be combined – the insulation in that building comes from repurposed denim.
Not every fire department building is a station. To that end, the Greater Toronto Airport Authority in Ontario created a training academy that received a LEED Silver rating. Among the features touted for the Toronto facility are a “green” roof that blends into the surrounding landscape, a thermal solar wall and the recovery of heat from the concrete structural mass. North Metro Fire Rescue in Denver, CO, also has gone green for training, but with a slightly different twist. Its burn evolutions use propane rather than other fossil fuels, and evolution areas are sloped to direct runoff into holding ponds.
Fire headquarters facilities are also going green. An early entry was the City of Santa Monica, CA, Public Safety Building. Constructed in 2003, it houses both fire and police administrations within its 117,000 square feet. As of December 2009, nearly 90 fire service related-facilities in the U.S. had earned some form of LEED recognition. This number does not count the ongoing efforts of the London Fire Brigade and others like them around the world that have made major commitments in this area.
Raising Funds by Recycling
Since the fire station has long served as the center for neighborhood and community activities, many departments’ environmental efforts extend outside of their agencies. San Rafael and neighboring California departments coordinate a battery-recycling program. The Perkins Township Fire Department in Sandusky, OH, uses donations of recycled aluminum cans to help fund fire prevention activities. Hinesville, GA, uses donated cans to support a burn center, as do firefighters in Watauga County, NC; Florham Park, NJ; and Fairfax County, VA. Penn Township, PA, uses recycling proceeds to offset department operating expenses. These are but a few of many such former and current initiatives nationwide.
Although construction of a facility is obviously a major undertaking, energy efficiency does not require a new building or a major project. There are many examples of the application of LEED-certified practices used in rehabilitating existing structures. However, not every building or project must be LEED certified. Much can be gained through simple common-sense practices. Seemingly small jobs can have a major local impact.
The Indiana Office of Energy Development has used American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants to help several fire departments replace inefficient furnaces and even change light bulbs. While such savings may be considered minimal in larger municipalities, they can make a big difference where donation-funded volunteer departments are involved. From cutting back on response assignments to less-frequent washing of trucks, more fire departments are going green every day. And, this increase can be seen in reverse proportion to the decrease in “green” of another kind – the money needed to finance operations.