There was an article in the New York Times recently reporting that the US Coast Guard has increased the average body weight calculation for passengers where commercial boating is concerned. The old weight was 160 and the new one is 185. Surprise: people are getting bigger, fast.
It seems that fire trucks and ambulances are following this same trend. Are firefighters also getting bigger or do we just need more stuff? Or, maybe it is a little bit of both.
Whatever the cause, bigger fire rigs are creating tension (and problems) in older areas where the existing firehouses may have both historical value and be subject to preservation restrictions where any changes to the structure are subject to approval.
Such is the case here in Washington, D.C., where a host of firehouses built in the 19th or early 20th centuries have apparatus doors and other features that make them ill-suited to the 21st.
The facades on many of these buildings are constructed of limestone or are intricate and of a “character-defining” nature. Thus, they cannot be easily changed. In addition, the buildings may have landmark status because of their cultural value.
According to the Georgetown Current, a community newspaper, Tim Dennee, a city preservation architect, says, “It’s kind of a quiet disaster”, referring to the number of fire stations, up to ten, that may require alteration.
One community preservationist suggested that the station housing Engine 28/ Truck 14, which has more EMS than fire runs, simply have ambulances rather than fire companies, which would presumably mean that the neighborhood would stop having fire emergencies, surely a great relief to citizens. Following this logic, it would make more sense to simply close the station altogether, vanquishing fire/EMS emergencies with one fell swoop.
Meanwhile, the DCFD is predictability antsy, as some renovation projects are seven years old and the condition of firehouses, E28/T14 being one of them, have necessitated their closure with the companies moved elsewhere.
It’s a fascinating issue because so many beautiful fire stations have been torn down and it would be unfortunate to have more destroyed for any reason. Hopefully, sanity will prevail and these treasures will be carefully re-constructed to allow for the delivery of modern fire/EMS services. DCFD personnel make a key point: the narrow entrances are currently being damaged as rigs with as little as three inches of clearance try to “thread the needle.”