LONDONDERRY — The Londonderry Fire Department has uprooted its longtime office and living spaces and relocated to a newly constructed south wing as the $6.4 million overhaul of the central station continues and demolition of the old northern section begins.
Chief Darren O’Brien said the station’s nearly 30 personnel moved into what will be the new administrative wing of the station on Aug. 28.
“It was definitely a busy week,” O’Brien said.
Additional workers from North Branch Construction came to assist with moving heavy equipment and furniture.
They had only a two-day window to do the move, ensuring dispatch was set up and ready to go in the new space, and vacating the old space in time for the demolition crews to start their work, which O’Brien said will continue for the next three weeks.
After that, O’Brien expects construction of the north wing to be complete by February. That section, dubbed the operations center, will house the station’s living quarters, fitness center, gear storage and decontamination and laundering facilities.
Bruce Blazon, the project manager from North Branch Construction, said they are aiming to wrap the whole project in early spring. They began work on Aug. 2018.
“We’re about 75 percent (done),” Blazon said.
He said the process has moved smoothly.
“Working with the town of Londonderry and the Londonderry fire department has been a wonderful experience,” Blazon said.
The new northern wing will be a bigger space than the currently occupied south wing, Blazon said, because it will have a second floor.
When the project is done, the old six-bay 8,800-square-foot station will be expanded into a 22,000-square-foot facility with 11 bays. Two of the new bay doors will be 14 feet wide to fit larger apparatus such as an aerial tower or tanker, and the original front four 12-foot-wide bays were made higher.
Right now, the roughly 6,000-square-foot administrative wing, which has offices for command and permitting staff, dispatch, and a public training center that will also serve as a pop-up emergency operations center (EOC), is going to be cramped for the next five to six months, O’Brien said.
Some offices, like Operation Battalion Chief Michael McQuillen’s future office, are being used as bedrooms for now.
A conference room is jammed full of old equipment for lack of a storage room, and the training room/EOC is doubling as a day room with a small kitchenette for the firemen. McQuillen said each operations shift is made up of three firefighters, a lieutenant and battalion chief, plus dispatchers and any additional administrators on duty.
Because the firefighters are working out of the station while it’s being built, some adjustments to the original plan had to be made, such as installing a shower in one of the bathrooms in the administrative wing, O’Brien said.
So far, the dispatch center is set up with two work stations on temporary desks. More furniture and equipment is due to be installed in October to set up a third station and room for a fourth, all with state-of-the-art tech, O’Brien said. The sturdy stone walls are built to keep dispatchers safe and working even during prolonged extreme weather events. The dispatch center is also self-contained with it’s own kitchen, bathrooms and dedicated HVAC system.
“We built it as pretty much a bunker,” O’Brien said.
Presently, the Londonderry Fire Department provides dispatch services for Hampstead and Pelham in addition to Londonderry, and will have the capacity to potentially add more communities.
So far, O’Brien said they’re on track to meet their budget, and he plans to apply for some state grants, such as a $69,000 grant for an emergency backup generator and a roughly $100,000 grant for equipment and furniture to outfit the EOC. He said a portion of the already-approved town funding for the station buildout will count matching funds.
Next month, O’Brien plans to host the department’s annual Fire Prevention Open House after the demolition of the old northern section is complete to invite members of the public to tour the station and view the progress.