When an Akron resident is in trouble, firefighters rush to the rescue.
A group of West Akron residents wants to return the favor, helping the firefighters.
They plan to adopt Fire Station No. 12, an aging and highly visible station on West Market Street, directly across from Acme No. 1. A meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. today at Northwest Family Recreation Center, 1730 Shatto Ave., to discuss the effort.
The campaign is the result of a recent visit by Bob Stevens, a resident who went to the 1852 W. Market St. station to thank the firefighters for coming to his aid when he had a heart attack. He was shocked by what he saw, especially the metal scaffolding holding up the floor of the engine/ambulance bay.
“It looked like World War II,” recalled Stevens, 74. “It looked like the floor was going to cave in.”
Stevens wasn’t much more impressed by the rest of the fire station, built in 1951, and called Councilwoman Marilyn Keith to ask what could be done.
Keith decided the community should step in to help make the station nicer and started meeting with groups to drum up support. So far, the volunteers range from Case Elementary School’s special education class offering to build a garden by the station to an elderly woman who wants to cook for the firefighters. Keith also scheduled tonight’s meeting to see what other ideas people might have.
“I believe the community — the people — can shore you up a bit,” Keith, who represents Ward 8, said during a recent tour of the station given by fire officials. “We can do something here.”
Leaders of the fire department appreciate the community wanting to help, and plan to work with Keith to see what can be done, but ultimately are hoping the station can be replaced either in the same location or another nearby spot in the next few years. The city has $300,000 in its capital budget this year to draw up fresh plans for both Station 12 and Station 2, located at East Market and Exchange streets, which has the same issue with scaffolding holding up the floor.
These two stations weren’t built to hold engines and ambulances that are as heavy as they are today, with one engine weighing about 40,000 pounds or 20 tons, roughly the equivalent of three elephants. Modern stations are designed with slabs under the fire equipment and only have basements under the living quarters, said Fire Chief Robert Ross.
Deputy Chief Dale Evans said the department has done the best it could to keep up its aging stations and equipment, especially given the city’s recent financial constraints. The last new station in Akron was built in 1995 and the average age of the stations is 49 years. The oldest is Station 9 on Dodge Avenue in West Akron that was built in 1920, with an addition in the ‘80s, Evans said.
One challenge that is unique to Station 12 is that it has only one bay, meaning that firefighters have to move the ambulance to get out the fire engine.
“Times can be compromised, with having to jockey the equipment,” Ross said, adding that Akron’s 12 other stations have at least two bays.
A tour of Station 12 showed a space that was clean but cramped and worn. The walls in the small living area have been patched and the carpet is frayed in the middle of the floor. To accommodate female firefighters, a closet in the former lieutenant’s quarters was converted into a shower. The new lieutenant’s quarters took space from the small dormitory with three beds for the firefighters assigned to the station.
The basement features a row of metal scaffolding from one end of the station to the other. It was installed in 2007 after firefighters noticed cracking and large chunks of concrete started falling. A new row of scaffolding was added and patching was done a few months ago when fire officials noticed new movement, Ross said.
Ross and Evans said the public’s help would be most appreciated with the aesthetics of the building and tasks that firefighters at the busy station don’t necessarily have time for, such as landscaping and painting the woodwork on the outside of the brick building.
“We need to match their good intentions with what’s needed,” Evans said.
That’s what Keith plans to do. She’s asked firefighters from the station for a wish list that she can share with groups and individuals who want to help.
As for Stevens, who has been doing well since his heart attack last September, he’d love to see a new station built for the firefighters he credits with saving him. But, short of this, he is pleased to see the community coming together to support them.
“The guys really do deserve a break,” he said.
Anyone interested in helping with the effort to aid Station 12 may call Keith at 330-867-8287 or send an email to email@example.com.