By Srianthi Perera

Gilbert ceremoniously broke ground on construction of its last-planned fire station in November.

Fire Station No. 9, located near Ocotillo and Higley roads, will serve residents in the far southeast part of town, which, until recently, consisted of quiet cotton and alfalfa fields surrounded by scrub desert horizons.

Now, with more and more red roofs and plastered walls breaking up the view, the fire station is necessary to help Gilbert maintain its four-minute emergency response time throughout the town, officials said.

Station No. 9 is really the town’s 11th station. “It’s the last station that we have planned on the books,” said Fire Chief Jim Jobusch, addressing the town dignitaries, staffers and a handful of residents gathered at the site. “Somewhere in the future, we may have to add a station if the town grows up and reaches build out. As far as plans for today, this is it.”

Gilbert is spending close to $8 million – drawing from system development fees – for the cost of the land, design, engineering, management, construction and equipment, which includes an engine.

Annual personnel costs for the 12-member staff amount to approximately $1.3 million, which will come from the general fund.

Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels said: “As Gilbert continues to grow, we are excited to break ground on this new fire station, which will enhance service to citizens in this area and further promote Gilbert’s commitment to safety.

“We’re committed to making sure that our response times stay low and that our citizens enjoy the highest level of service… We do everything we can to keep tax low and services high,” she added.

Jobusch said the fire station is “critical.”

“This area has really developed. There’s a lot going on in the way of residential, and nearby is a lot of commercial growth,” he said. “The stations that surround this area are running a lot of calls into this area and serving the citizens here and unfortunately that leads to long response times.

“So this station will be critical to serving the citizens in this part of the town. I think the citizens will appreciate having us in their neighborhood,” he added.

Fire Station No. 9 is being constructed by Phoenix-based Willmeng Construction and designed by St. Louis, Missouri-headquartered HDA Architects.

The station will be a little more than 12,000 square feet and consist of four apparatus bays for fire trucks, 10 dorms, a residential-style kitchen, dining room, day room and decontamination room, among other spaces.

An added feature that sets it apart from Gilbert’s other fire stations is its “dirty bathroom” in the bay. “As firefighters come back to the station after a call, they are able to keep those contaminants in the bay. And they can keep the inside – the living quarters – as clean as possible,” said Carl Grant, Gilbert firefighter and paramedic.

This feature falls in line with modern fire stations that emphasize supporting the health and wellness of firefighters, said Rob Duggan, assistant fire chief.

While the No. 1 killer of firefighters is heart attacks (the station will provide facilities for the crew members to be well-conditioned to combat the effects of firefighting and the rigors of the job), the No. 2 reason is cancer, he said.

“The building represents the pinnacle of construction to ensure the safety of our personnel,” Duggan said.

Fire Station No. 9 was included in a master plan established 15 years ago to help meet Gilbert’s growing needs.

With its vision of growth, Gilbert began building template fire stations that were much larger than the department was accustomed to build.

“We are on the precipice of a vibrant and still-growing big city,” Duggan said. “With big city comes different threats, different service levels that we have to provide.”

He said the design team of HDA Construction allows efficiencies of space, effective land use and also the vision to know that “we’re going to expand because the threats of today will be different than the threats of tomorrow.

“We have the capacity to run several crews out of this location, several different types of apparatus. We don’t know all the threats 20 years from now, but this station will be able to respond to those and protect this community,” he said.

The station will initially house a four-person crew that will include two paramedics and two emergency medical technicians and will be built to accommodate additional apparatuses and crews as the community grows.

Although it won’t seek LEED certification, the single-story building will feature energy-saving devices such as jumbo brick masonry and insulated concrete form, which, according to Project Manager Jason Alvarado, is an energy-saving insulation method that few cities use.

In addition, the station will have a standing seam metal roof, an energy saving LED lighting system throughout, and low water use landscape materials.