GEORGE—The George Fire Department and George Emergency Medical Services have much-needed room to grow after a major addition to the Fire & Rescue Station.
Construction on the 30-by-50-foot expansion on the southeast corner of the station wrapped up in November, adding two apparatus bays, equipment space and a training area.
“Just having the extra space and not always having to always pull trucks out is going to make it nice. The spacing for everybody is tremendous,” said fire chief Bill Sprock.
The biggest benefit of the expansion has been the area provided for training, something that used to be in short supply.
“We really didn’t have the room to do any kind of trainings inside. We’d have to pull everything out to do any sort of training,” said Ashley Eben, George Emergency Medical Services assistant chief.
The EMS team trains every month, often with dummies. In the past members have had to work outside or rotate in small groups in the conference room because there was no other room in the station.
For larger group training and for fire department training, vehicles would have to be pulled outside. The fire department sometimes had to delay training if the weather was too cold to leave the fire trucks outside to make room.
“We all know fires and EMS calls don’t stop in the winter. We’re not supposed to stop training in the winter, but sometimes we had too,” Sprock said.
Sara Sprock retired January from her role as George Emergency Medical Services chief, but was heavily involved in the planning and design for the addition to make sure critical training needs were met.
“One of the intentions when we added that much room for training was to be able to bring a car in and one month train on extrication using the Jaws of Life and how to do rapid extrication of a patient on the EMS side of things,” Sara Sprock said. “The next month the fire department can use it to actually tear it apart and how they would pull a patient out and use the Jaws of Life, how they would crack windows, how they would just tear the car apart to get out the patient.”
The dedicated training area will allow for these true-to-life trainings which previously were impossible, resulting in better training and preparedness for George’s emergency responders.
“You can practice extrication from vehicles with someone sitting in a chair but it’s a lot more effective when you’re actually having the patient in a little four-door car and have to maneuver around,” Sara Sprock said.
The addition also creates more room to move around while donning equipment or doing maintenance.
There are 25 people on the fire department and 15 with the EMS. Before the addition, there was barely room to pass between vehicles except in single file.
“In the wintertime it was harder because we had the snow and stuff like that and everybody was trying to get dressed,” Bill Sprock said. “You had people running in and doors opened up. Especially at 2 in the morning and you just woke up and the adrenaline is flowing, it did look like a circus.”
The station was built in 1994 when the fire department and EMS outgrew a previous location on Main Street at what is now the George Community Center. At the time, it had plenty of space for training, storage and apparatus but after 25 years room got tight again.
“Equipment gets bigger as years go by, so we were losing space,” Eben said.
Before the addition, the building was 60-by-80-feet including four apparatus bays, a conference room, kitchen, laundry room and showers.
The six vehicles owned by the fire department and two vehicles owned by EMS used to be parked two or three deep, leaving barely enough room between vehicles and walls to squeeze through. In 2012 the department bought a pumper truck which was custom-built two feet shorter so it would fit the station.
The fire department and EMS spent five years planning what they wanted in the expansion and how to pay for it.
“It costs a lot for a volunteer service to fund a station,” Bill Sprock said.
The addition cost $160,000. It was funded in part by a $59,000 grant from the Lyon County Riverboat Foundation received in 2019. A generous donation to the city of George from the Heeren estate in 2018 covered the rest.
“Without them there’s no way we’d be this far along with this,” said Fred Landis, George Emergency Medical Services chief.