The firefighters at Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Station 41 west of Boynton Beach have tried innovative solutions to create more space.
Once, they erected a crudely crafted addition at the back of the station to house a weight room and a bunk.
It was recently demolished after mold and leaks consumed it, so the space crunch endured with six people working in a space built for three.
"There's no room to get away from everybody," said Fire-Rescue Lt. Ed Ring, who has been assigned to Station 41 for seven years. "Somebody gets a cold, everybody gets it."
The firefighters will soon get more breathing room.
The county plans to rebuild Station 41, nearly doubling the size of the 20-year-old station at the corner of Military Trail and Woolbright Road.
Firefighters and emergency rescue personnel will get bigger living quarters, including a commercial-size kitchen, new bunks, new bathrooms and a new workout area.
The new station, which will be rebuilt on the same three-acre site as the old station, also will include bigger bay areas for fire engines, paramedic units and storage space.
It will cost $1.5 million to rebuild the new station and demolish the old station. Construction is slated to begin in April.
"It's a small, cramped station," Fire-Rescue Capt. Sean Pamplona said. "We've outgrown it at this point."
Station 41 is one of the busiest in the county, Pamplona said.
The number of calls it answers has steadily increased over the years.
From October 2002 to September 2003, the station answered 4,631 calls, up from 4,046 in 1999.
In addition to covering its designated zone, stretching from Military Trail to Jog Road and from Gateway Boulevard to Flavor Pict Road, firefighters based there provide critical backup for other stations that cover the rapidly developing communities west of Boynton Beach.
Station 41 works particularly close with Station 47, which was built last year at Boynton Beach Boulevard near Florida's Turnpike to serve the west Boynton Beach area.
Station 47 is not a full-service station and has only one rescue truck.
"When they get a call, that entire zone is without coverage," Pamplona said. "So we rely on Station 41."
Even with the growth in the area, there are no plans to build a full-service station west of Boynton Beach.
Rebuilding Station 41 seemed the best avenue to stay within the area's mandated response time of 7 minutes and 30 seconds, Pamplona said.
"When [station 41] was constructed, it didn't have the call volume we have today," Pamplona said. "When you're in such a busy station, it's important to have suitable living quarters. You've got crews coming in and crews coming out. It gets a lot of wear and tear."
Built in 1982, the 3,200-square-foot station has a bunkroom meant for only two people that now has five using it as their sleeping quarters. The shift commanders have a separate room.
"It's paid its dues," Ring said.
The station replacing Station 41 will be 5,500 square feet with seven bunks in a larger bunkroom, a weight room, bathrooms for men and women, a day room and a dispatch room.
"This will give the guys more living space so they can feel a lot more comfortable in their surroundings," Pamplona said.