April 11, 2013

New Keene Fire Station nears completion


---- — KEENE — Cement blocks and steel studs form the skeleton of the new Fire Station here.

Walls around the fire truck bays are made of concrete blocks filled with cement and rebar.

None of it could burn.

The new Keene Fire Station was built to withstand explosions and natural disasters, from wind or rain or earthquakes. 

But the Keene Volunteer Fire Department gained this new station from disaster. Built at a cost of $2.4 million, the new station is industrial in size and strength. 

And it is high and dry, away from the sinuous rivers that cut through the valley here and especially Gulf Brook, the stream that took down half of the old fire station and undermined the entire foundation during Tropical Storm Irene.

Keene had to rebuild at a new location, as there isn’t any law to exempt fire departments from regulations that require septic systems be placed away from waterways.

And the old station sat right on the banks of Gulf Brook.

“Construction is at an interesting stage,” Sean Foran, project manager from Hueber-Breuer Construction, told a tour group this week.

“You can see a lot of what is going into this kind of station. It is 85 percent complete and will be substantially done by May 15.

“The trucks go in on Memorial Day.”


“In any disaster, this will be the last building standing,” Foran added. “I’ll guarantee it.”

Keene’s five fire trucks will all fit inside the new station, with room in the back for one more.

Currently, the trucks are housed in different sites throughout Keene.

The one open truck bay leaves room for training sessions from a concrete mezzanine floor above it.

The mezzanine cost about $7 a square foot to build, Foran said. 

It is fitted with a trap door that drops into the bunker gear room below, designed to facilitate confined-space firefighter training.

And another “window” cut in the concrete mezzanine wall allows for bailout training, which is now mandatory. 


Iron loops in the ceiling will help firefighters establish a secure belay system for practice.

“There is not a lot of wasted space here,” Keene Fire Chief Jody Whitney said of the well-defined layout for gear, tools, radio equipment and training.

“It’s all about firefighter safety.”

Keene Valley Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Ron Konowitz, who is also the wilderness rescue coordinator, said the members of his department often train with Keene.

“We’ll be utilizing this, which is great.”


There likely isn’t a more modern fire station in the Adirondack Park.

The concrete truck-bay floor has radiant heat and troughs built in to allow water from wet trucks and hoses to drain into a holding tank.

A decontamination shower room will be fitted with high-pressure showers to wash hazardous materials from bunker gear.

That room has a back entrance, so contaminated equipment doesn’t have to go through the main front doors.

There is a large meeting room in community quarters on the left side of the building, along with space for an industrial kitchen.

Federal Emergency Management Agency, state and local funding, including $640,000 provided by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, did not cover the kitchen facility, so that room will be completed at a later date.

The radio communications room is being equipped with boosters from Keene Valley Video Inc., Keene’s cable company, to enhance Internet access.

That, officials say, will be important during any incident command, especially when multi-departmental response teams work together, usually adding Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers, State Police and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.


Behind the truck bays, there is a room for 24 firefighter lockers and another room for a washing machine and dryer for their gear.

An indoor tool room will hold equipment to fix the trucks.

There is office space for fire officials. And there are men’s and women’s restrooms for public use in the community side of the building. It, too, was built with metal studs.

“They are called ‘king studs,’” Foran said. “They are part of the Essential Services construction requirement.”

The community room is heated with forced hot air fueled by natural gas.


Construction of the new facility across from Stewart’s Shop on Route 73 continued at a steady pace throughout the winter.

Keene is approaching two years now without a station.

Town Supervisor Bill Ferebee credited local fire officials with hours of planning and filling out paperwork.

“The fire commissioners and Fire Chief Jody Whitney have put a lot of hard work into getting this project completed,” he said.

“I’ll be glad when it’s done and the Fire Department has moved in.”

Plans for a public welcome are in the works, but it may be June before the department is able to hold a formal grand opening.

Email Kim Smith