Brooklyn Park Considers Plans for New Fire Station
Brooklyn Park Fire Chief Shawn Conway hopes that construction of a new Central Fire Station would reduce the risk of cancer for his crew.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer is the leading cause of death for firefighters. Between diesel fumes, toxic chemicals and fire debris, there’s no shortage of workplace carcinogens for a firefighter.
“You can see some of the walls are discolored from the diesel — that all gets then brought throughout the facility,” said Conway while standing inside the fire station’s parking garage.
With trucks running indoors, the exhaust particles float through the air and cover equipment.
At Brooklyn Park’s Central Fire Station, located at 5700 85th Ave. N., gear lockers with personal protective equipment are located in the open air of the garage.
“Modern fire stations have gear isolated in negative pressure rooms,” Conway said.
The risks are higher when dirty equipment mixes with regular living spaces, he said.
“You can start to see where they’re just backtracking, so you’re actually pushing this contamination throughout the fire station,” said Conway.
“We Just Have Outgrown the Space”
While health and wellness issues are a primary concern, Conway said the entire Central Fire Station has issues that go beyond health hazards.
The station was never designed to house a full-time duty crew.
Former Brooklyn Park Fire Chief John Cunningham began shifting the department away from a paid-on-call staffing model in 2019. The move to a full-time duty crew has made for tight quarters.
“We just have outgrown the space,” Conway said.
Bedrooms at the station are located in space previously used for an office.
“Even the wall behind this row of lockers is a divider because this is one large common room,” Conway said.
Meanwhile, the department’s workout room used to be storage space.
Conway discussed the prospect of rebuilding the station with the Brooklyn Park City Council on Tuesday. A rebuild of the Central Fire Station comes with an estimated $25-26 million price tag.
However, the department has four stations.
“The total infrastructure package would be closer to $64 [million], and that is to rebuild or remodel all four stations,” Conway said.
Conway said he hopes the community and city leadership will see the value in safer, more comfortable living conditions for the fire department.
“I’m pretty confident that they would be able to understand our perspective, because it’s a health and wellness aspect,” said Conway.