Brooklyn Park Fire Department Wants New Digs To Help Continue Big-City Service With a Small-Town Feel
Brooklyn Park Firefighter Max Bielefeld said he likes his department most because of the balance that exists in few other places. The department has just shy of 50 sworn firefighters on staff, and they handle more than 10,000 calls a year in the state’s sixth-largest city.
“We have the ability to really build relationships with everyone from the bottom to the top within the structure and not just get kind of lost at a station somewhere else,” said Bielefeld, who works on one of the engine companies for the city. “We get to do a lot of those big-city things but also still have a very small department feel.”
“We look for that population to continue to grow, especially with it being the sixth-fastest growing city in the state,” said Fire Chief Shawn Conway. “We do and are planning for that to be over 100,000 (residents).”
Responders out of the Central Fire Station on 85th Avenue get more than a dozen calls on an average day, and Conway said about 71 percent of those are medical calls. He said about a fifth of his firefighters are also paramedics. But he said the training that goes into what his firefighters do day in and day out is what sets his department apart from others.
“We have people who are leaders within the community in our fire department, and they are supported,” said Conway. “It’s not just a matter of running calls and saying ‘I’m a firefighter.” There’s a personal aspect to how we’re serving the community, and that is demonstrated by our daily service.”
Conway did say the city could use some state support in its efforts to build a new Central Fire Station, and that’s why city leaders have joined him in asking for more than $12 million as part of the state bonding package for next year. Conway just came into the job earlier this year, after the retirement of former chief, John Cunningham. Cunningham long pushed for updates to the department’s facilities.
“There’s no way we can serve our communities and our surrounding communities the way we do without the support of the mayor, the city council, the city manager, our different departments and divisions within the city,” he said.
The current Central station is about 30 years old, and Conway says many of its features are out of date with current safety and health standards for first responders. Many requirements now call for rinsing out hoses and for certain exhaust emission standards in confined spaces to better protect against higher risks of cancer for first responders.
He also wants to build a station better suited for the full-time firefighter model, which he says the current building was not built for.
“Our department is looking to cut seconds, not minutes. Our hope and our goal is to be able to respond to any emergency in the city of Brooklyn Park within that six- to eight-minute time frame,” he said. “We are going to need to change some of the models within the station, the configurations, to where the apparatus and the living quarters are and the bedrooms as well.”
These changes could help continue the work of firefighters like Bielefeld.
“We’re kind of in the bad-day business, unfortunately,” he said. “Typically we’re the people that are going to get called and try to take that bad day and make it something better.”