Originally published Sept. 12, 2013.
"It's kind of like working on your own home," Huntington Fire Marshal Wayne Huff says.
Except when the alarm sounds and the guys have to suit up and shoot out the door to respond to a medical emergency or a burning structure.
Then, all work stops.
But Huff hopes that, even with all the interruptions, the crew of firefighters can have the Condit Street Fire Station ready for service in a month or so.
The Condit Street station is being expanded and revamped as the Huntington Fire Department downsizes from three stations to two. Fire crews and equipment from the Central Fire Station on Cherry Street are being merged into the station on Condit, which will also house offices for the chief, officers and secretary. The Central location will no longer serve as a fire station.
Contractors were hired to do the major parts of the renovation - adding a third truck bay, building walls and installing electrical wiring, heating, cooling and plumbing - but the firefighters themselves are finishing the structure.
"The on-duty guys have really stepped it up," Huff says. "We've saved the city thousands of dollars."
Huff says Fire Chief Tim Albertson suggested having firefighters finish up the project.
"The chief sat down and asked us," he says. "Obviously, what we can save, we can save."
The firefighters work construction most of the day, until they need to become a firefighting crew again.
"Then they drop the paint brushes, drop the glue trowels and rush to the scene," Huff says.
They also work in continuing training sessions for veteran firefighters as well as training for those new to the crew.
Firefighters assisted with demolition at the start of the project and, while the contractors were still on the job, cleaned up after them. Most of the contracting crews finished up in early September, and the firefighters stepped in and took over, Huff says.
Firefighters have done all the painting and all the floor prep and plan to change out some light fixtures.
"We've done every square inch of flooring prep and installation," Huff says.
They have some landscaping projects in mind, too, but that's probably going to have to wait until spring.
Not every firefighter is skilled in every aspect of home (or fire station) remodeling, Huff admits, but they're willing to learn.
"Every crew has got their guys who can take the lead," Huff says, instructing fellow firefighters in proper technique.
All firefighters from all three stations are working on the Condit Street project, Huff says, with the exception of a couple of firefighters who remain on duty at the Etna Avenue station.
"We try to keep a couple of guys out there at a time," he says.
Huff says the project's effect on response time is minimal.
"Generally, it's just a minute, maybe," he says.
The Condit Street station previously included a community space - the Neighborhood Recreation Center - but that's been incorporated into the fire station and will no longer be available for community use.
The main entrance leads directly to the secretary's desk, Huff points out, making it easier for the public to visit the station. At the Central station, where administrative offices are now located, it can be confusing for a community member to walk in and locate the secretary's office.
In addition to the third truck bay, the Condit Street station is getting administrative offices, lockers, additional showers, a day room/training room, kitchen, sleeping quarters and a handicap accessible restroom.
When complete, two engines and a grass rig will be housed on Condit Street.
Complete caption: Huntington Fire Department Lt. Jeff Rittenhouse paints a door that will be installed at the Condit Street Fire Station. All city firefighters have pitched in to complete the remodeling work at the station, which is being revamped as the department downsizes from three fire stations to two.