Mission accomplished

Rural Metro opens new fire station on Emory Road
Station 36 officially celebrated their grand opening, just behind Advanced Auto parts on Emory Road, a few weeks ago.  The public open house and tours proved so popular they had to shuttle visitors from a nearby parking lot. The purpose built fire station is officially Knox County’s largest, boasting four bays to house their trucks, including a ladder truck and the Rescue Squad.
“It’s apparent how much growth there has been in this part of the county,” said Rural Metro Fire Chief Jerry Harnish, pointing to the location of neighboring Stations 31 and 30 on a map. The new fire station aims to provide the best possible service while constantly maintaining their best response times.
“I think it’s been pretty impactful for (Stations) 30 and 31,” said Captain Eric Knoefel. “We have absorbed a lot of their projects. We have taken the burden off the two busiest stations in Powell and Halls, we were approaching a situation where the trucks were not running to calls in their area because they were already out on a call.”
Station 36’s zone is based on density and extends up Morris Road, along Greenwell and up to Copper Ridge Elementary.” Knoefel is usually “on the engine”, but at the new station is a hub, he supervises three other stations in addition to Station 36 on the days he is designated Battalion Chief.
“These projects are lengthy, it took more than a year to construct,” said Harnish. “We were making requests we had never made before, we wanted a certain amount of energy efficiency.” Must-have items included LED lighting and insulation to conserve heating and air conditioning.
Harnish said they wanted to move in with complete WiFi connectivity. “Our reporting system is wireless and Cloud-based. Our patient information requires a lot of security and there is almost nothing the guys do that doesn’t involved the internet. The crew leader can sit in the truck and interact (online) the whole way to the call.”
The style of construction is a little more modern, according to Harnish. “The concept of the large open space and the galley-style kitchen is contemporary, but it’s functional, it recognizes the way the firefighters work.”
“The station is designed for us to collaborate, for the crew to communicate, be together before and after calls,” said Knoefel. “We train and prepare more efficiently here and that really helps us more effectively meet the mission. We are busy and we don’t sit around much.”
Many existing fire stations have a locker area for their equipment and gear, Harnish said they looked to the Swedes to design a “mudroom on steroids”. “We intentionally built a room with waterproof laminated walls and rubber flooring,’ he said. “A place where we can wash gear, and a warm place to hang it to dry. The Swedes realized a long time ago that dirty equipment is a health hazard, we use a double door entry to help keep the fumes and dirt out of the main fire station.”
Additionally there is a private suite, a separate office for the Chief to take calls, laundry and sleeping quarters with bathrooms. Having a separate suite for on call staff is an inducement for part-time fire department recruits. “For a lot of students who work for us part-time, living in a fire station is like a right-of-passage,” said Knoefel. “I once lived in the Ambulance department in the old St Mary’s for six-months.”
“There are always growing pains, but the dynamic has been good,” said Knoefel. “Five people are based in here, with a Chief, the rescue squad and three people assigned to the engine and the ladder truck.”

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