Almost 10 years ago, members of the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department realized that they were outgrowing their station on Center Street South. In 1995, the volunteers began studying the best way to expand the station, said Howard Springsteen, president of the station's volunteers.
In 1999, the renovations, which are expected to cost approximately $2.7 million, began in earnest. "We started looking to the county for assistance," Springsteen said. On Dec. 6, the volunteers got that assistance in the form of $1.5 million from the county. The money will come from the sale of public safety bonds authorized in 2002.
The station building is owned by the volunteers, Springsteen said, while the staffing at the station is mostly Fairfax County career firefighters. The volunteers primarily come in to supplement career staffing.
Since the building is owned by a private entity, the volunteers had to set up an agreement that if the volunteers should, for some reason, no longer exist, the Town of Vienna would get right of first refusal on the property. However, "the Town always has to let the county use the operational part of the station," Springsteen said.
The Town, he added, has been very helpful in the renovation project, and has waived permitting the fees that the volunteers would have had to pay.
He also credited Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) with getting the county funding for the project. "She just kept on dogging and dogging this," Springsteen said. "We wouldn't have gotten the money if she hadn't kept pushing."
"We have been fortunate in Fairfax County in having a career and volunteer program that works well together," Hudgins said. "We are glad to be able to raise the quality of the station to match that of those who serve in it."
Hudgins praised the work the volunteers and the community have already done on the project. "They have raised an awful lot of money," Hudgins said. "I think the community has really supported them."
To date, the firefighters have raised and spent $700,000 on the first two phases of the renovation. So far, the money has gone toward items like putting in new, larger doors for the fire trucks to exit and a new sprinkler system. "It's not sexy for non-fire people, but it's important to be able to get the equipment out of the station," Springsteen said.
The existing equipment bay — the place where the trucks are stored — is about the only part of the station that will not change after the renovation. The rear of the station will extend farther to make room for the new facilities. "Basically, we're increasing our space by about 50 percent," Springsteen said.
One of the biggest changes will be a complete renovation of the bunk area. The station currently has two bunk rooms, but the room for women is considerably smaller. When the station was initially designed and built 46 years ago, female firefighters were not a consideration, said Anthony Stancampiano, EMS captain at the station. "The new plans are going to include specific bunks for males, specific bunks for females and unisex bunks for either," he said.
During the renovation process, firefighters will be housed in temporary trailers, which are currently in the parking lot behind the station.
Also included in the new plans, said Springsteen, will be a workout room for the firefighters, a decontamination area, a conference room, office space, kitchen space and a renovated day room. "It's not going to be a Taj Mahal. It's just going to be a functional fire station," Springsteen said.