Airbase firefighters ready to move into new fire hall

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By Lance Coleman
Senior reporter
Blount Today

It wasn’t money that was disappearing in the kitchen of the current fire hall at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard base. It was the food.

"You could put a $100 bill here and nobody bothered it. Now food, it would be gone," Chief Master Sgt. Ken Smith said, with a laugh.

That’s one of the reasons Smith was glad when three large refrigerators and three pantries were installed in the kitchen of the base’s new fire hall. A pantry and a refrigerator were designated for each shift. "This really is a marked improvement," he said of the new fire hall. "Quality of life is so much better."

The department personnel hope to be moved into their new facility in early February. The facility was built with more than $4 million in federal funds and took about 26 months to complete. The current building is about 10,000 square feet and the new one is 21,500 square feet. There are 23 full-time firefighters, which works out to about seven people per shift. There are a total of 27 firefighters assigned there and six more expected to be assigned to the station soon, he said.

Another big plus for the new building is that now Smith can get his trucks into the garage.

"We’ve got wide, wide doors. They’re 18 feet wide," he said. Doors on the current fire hall are 12 to 14 feet wide. The larger fire hall also provides enough space to house all the trucks and trailers. He has eight trucks and four trailers.

"The best thing is we can get all our equipment into this bay

There is also a clean room for servicing self-contained breathing apparatus, which brings the unit inline with national standards for fire departments.

Another benefit of the new hall is the storage room for turnout gear and more living space. "We had limited storage at the other station, which was designed in the early ‘80’s," he said.

The staff moved into the old facility in 1985. Quality of life was not much of an issue planners addressed. "We had a large room. We all slept in the same room," he said. The new building has separate rooms with space for two beds and lockers for each firefighter. The multiple sleeping areas accommodate up to 33. There also is a new office and sleeping area for three of the supervisors and a new office/sleeping area for Smith.

The firefighters often spend more time with each other than with their families because of the 24 hour shifts they must work. "They’re together 24 hours at a time," Smith said. "That’s not just us, that’s any fire department."

The new fire hall also has a computer training center where firefighters can learn using DVD or digital technology. There will be room for six computer stations.

The kitchen in the new facility is part of a large, second-floor recreation area that also has a covered porch that boasts a beautiful view of the airport and runways. Another addition is an expanded exercise room.

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