Highlands Fire & Rescue moves into new station

Highlands Fire & Rescue has officially moved into the new station on Franklin Road across the street from the Highlands Post Office. HFR Chief Ryan Gearhart said they began operations in the new building on Jan. 6 after the trucks, equipment, and gear were transferred over.

All HFR’s trucks are housed in one place, rather than in five different areas like the old station.

The driving forces behind building a new facility include quicker response times and an increase in call volume as more and more people move to the mountains.

Gearhart said a big part of reducing response time is establishing a manned station 24-hours a day. The new station includes several sleeping quarters so firefighters can work in 24-hour shifts. The plan is to have six full-time paid firefighters in the near future – two per shift with three shifts. For now, the new station is home to 27 volunteers.

Having all the apparatuses, including turnout gear, is much more efficient.

“An improved response time increases the chances of saving a life or a house by a lot,” said Gearhart. “Our goal is to have our trucks roll within 30 seconds of a call during the day, and a couple minutes at night. But we need guys here 24/7 to make that happen.”

He added that responding to calls from an unmanned station takes approx. 13 minutes from the time a call comes in, to when trucks are on the move. Having a force that can respond quicker may also lower homeowners’ insurance premiums.

The front of the new HFR station. Bay doors also open on the rear side of the building.

Fire tax proceeds that have been saved over the years have paid for the new firehouse and now finding the money to station firefighters on site at all times is still in the works, but Gearhart said the town is looking at multiple options and hopes to have them in place in 2023.

Also improving response times at the new station is the building’s centralized layout. Gearhart said now all their trucks, equipment, and gear are in one location.

“Having all the apparatuses in one bay area instead of scattered all over the place like the old station is much easier,” said Gearhart. “Truck checks, maintenance, responding to calls, or any time we need to work on something, everything is right there. Before we had five different sections housing our trucks.”

The rear bay doors at the new HFR station, also includes a covered deck area.

The new facility includes a large bay area housing all of HFR’s trucks, a conference room, exercise room, rec room, five sleeping quarters, a kitchen, a room for gear, a rear covered deck, office space and yes, a fire pole.

Gearhart said it’s safer for firefighters to slide down a pole, as opposed to running down two flights of stairs after waking up from a deep sleep.

Waking from a deep sleep and sliding down the pole is safer than navigating two flights of stairs.

When not responding to calls, those on duty will be responsible to keep the trucks in running order, maintain the hydrants, keep the entire complex clean and in order from top to bottom and to exercise in the fitness room at least 30 minutes per day.

Pictured below, construction crews install the trusses at the new station in December 2021.


By Brian O’Shea
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