Kitchen Tables Can Be the Heart of Your Station

Aug. 27, 2019
Janet Wilmoth spoke with firefighters in Glendale, AZ, and Houston whose custom kitchen tables create a sense of identity and are the beating heart of their stations.

This year, several of the Station Design Awards entries included pictures showing colorful, custom kitchen tables in the fire stations. Salt Lake City Station #3, Daisy Mountain Fire Station #145, and Nokesville Volunteer Fire & Rescue Station No. 5 are among the entries with personalized kitchen tables.

In fact, last year we had pizza with a crew at Glendale, AZ, Fire Station 158 atop their unique table; a large eight-ball skull amidst bright, blue swirls. When we checked back, two other Glendale fire stations have custom-made dining tables, each the handwork of one of their ownJohn Sindle, a firefighter for ten years with the Glendale Fire Department.

“E-ONE builds the tables and feature the ‘engine swirl’ pattern,” said Sindle. “For Station 158, we told E-ONE we wanted a 4’x10’ to accommodate ten people in a station.”

The fire department pays for the bare, aluminum tables and the other supplies Sindle needs to finish a table. Besides the ones for Station 158 and 154, Sindle recently painted a table for the remodeled Station 152.

Most of the work is done by Sindle and each table takes him about 60 hours. “That’s with prepping, sanding, cleaning, layers of paint and polish. It’s a layering process, then clear coat, sand and polish,” he explained. “Even more time is spent laying stencils back down over colors so it all lines up perfectly and no overlap, so the color will butt right up against the next color.”

For Station 158’s table, Sindle used blue “candy” colors of automotive paint, which is a transparent color and allows the swirl patterns of the table to show through.

The personalization comes in when Sindle sits down with the station crews to determine the design for their table and logo. The Station 158 crew selected a “Q8” ball for their logo; Sindle added the station name in Old English lettering on each end of the table.

“Station 158 is ‘Loco Ocho,’ the name of the station. It’s a tradition for stations to have names,” Sindle said. “Station 152 is the ‘Zoo’ and my Station 154 is the ‘Midnight Special’ because of the many calls we get at night.”

Other departments have asked Sindle for a price to make a custom table, but expenses can add up with a bare aluminum table starting at $3,500 and the automotive paints and supplies he uses.

Sindle enjoys working on a personalized kitchen table because it will be in the stations for years to come.

“I feel pride, and it’s an honor to make a table,” he said. “The camaraderie among the people at the station is just so rewarding. Fire station tables are the go-to in the morning. When the next shift comes in, we sit down and talk. The tables are part of the station tour, people come in and look at what’s on our table.”

The current training academy recruits bought a table for Sindle to design and it was presented as the class gift to the Recruit Training Officers at the Glendale Training Academy.

“It’s satisfying to create a table. I enjoy doing it, I enjoy painting, so it’s a humbling experience to see the reaction of peoples’ faces and their questions on how we did it,” Sindle said. “You put in all that time and effort and the hard work and then to hear your comrades compliment it. I’m able to leave something like a little mark to be around for decades.”

Glendale’s Fire Chief Terry Garrison suggested I look at Houston Fire Departments’ tables. As the former fire chief in Houston, Garrison shared Houston stations had some amazing kitchen tables and put us in touch with Richard Mann, Executive Assistant Chief, Houston Fire Department.

Mann explained “The [custom-made] tables have just taken off in the last 20 years and are typically built by the crews. The tables come in different sizes and some are quite large.”  He added it’s not just new stations that are getting new kitchen tables. “Some of the crews in older stations are also getting involved in designing and building tables pertinent to their station.”

“Here in Houston, stations can have their own patch and logo on the fire trucks, symbolic of the area they serve, like the Minute Maid Park where the Astros play,” said Mann. “Stations have a Line of Duty Death design to honor the fallen. What they design and build depends on their skills and they run with it.”

In Houston, Mann shared the kitchen tables are usually built in the station, sometimes on the apparatus floor, and all the crews pitch in to pay for and help build the table. “It’s really neat and projects may take several weeks or months. They all contribute and work on it when they have time. All the shifts participate,” Mann said.

“It’s the most valuable piece of equipment in the station,” Mann explained. “It’s where you eat together and sometimes cry together; it really brings people together.”

For decades, kitchen tables have been the gathering point in fire stations. Calls are dissected and lessons are learned. Experiences are shared and emotions are allowed. It’s where fire family comes together.

Is the kitchen table the heart of your station? Send a photo and tell us your story.

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