East Tennessee fire department looks for space to fight fires

Imagine a large fire truck that barely fits inside the building, and in a pandemic, you need to keep people six feet apart.
Published: Feb. 9, 2021 at 4:54 PM EST
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GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Imagine a large fire truck that barely fits inside the building, and in a pandemic, you need to keep people six feet apart.

That’s the problem in Tusculum, a small town in Greene County where cramped space has fire crews hoping for a new building.

The moment you step inside the Tusculum Fire Department you’ll quickly see how tight it is inside.

“Only our smallest equipment can be kept here, and the commendations are cramped to say the least,” said Fire Chief Marty Shelton.

The fire department is spread between two buildings. Inside one, the fire truck barely fits. If you look close you’ll see it touches the wall when backed in and barely an inch in the front between the garage doors.

“To allow more room to house the apparatus would allow space to walk around to open compartment doors to inspect equipment, load up personnel to respond, and other options. When you cannot walk completely around the apparatus because it is so close to the wall is never good,” said Chief Shelton. “Just having everything together, where we can get the appropriate equipment and upgrade to the needs of today’s fire service for this career volunteer is very important.”

He’s working with the town council on a three-phase expansion project that includes a new fire station. A project put on hold because of the pandemic, but now shows signs of opportunity again.

“Because a positive report on revenues that we can start revisiting that, and with the potential of a community development block grant on the horizon, should we be awarded that and that will put the building project in full speed ahead,” said Shelton.

A new building isn’t cheap. He estimates the shell of the building would cost $150,000. That’s before furnishings and new modern fire equipment.

In the long run, though, he hopes the investment will save property owners money and save lives.

“We can save on homeowners for the insurance companies that recognize ISO ratings and save that for the homeowners as well as industry and businesses for equipment is what it’s about. And then that’s having the volunteers to respond with that equipment, as the most valuable tool that we have,” said Shelton. “A larger station also means we will no longer be restricted to the size of apparatus to house there. With that said, we have added as much as we can currently due to the size of the station with regards to our fleet.”

The long-range plan calls for the police department to expand into the current fire department space which would leave more room in town hall for additional renovations there.

The added space would allow the department to consider other additions as well. This would bring the possibility of living space, areas of restrooms, a small kitchen, a meeting area just to name a few. Future growth may even be expandable to provide living areas for crews to staff the station during inclement weather or other available times.

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