Bow’s fire station fails safety inspectionBy SUSAN CLARK
Union Leader Correspondent
October 28. 2013 8:42PM
BOW — The Bow Fire Department has been working in a cramped, outdated building that has been found in violation of state fire and life safety regulations, including the lack of an on-site fire alarm and sprinklers.
The building at 2 Knox Road was built in 1954. According to a video on the town’s website, produced by Fire Capt. Mitchell Harrington, the building’s major issues are crumbling asbestos walls, a basement with standing water, vintage electrical wiring, pedestrian and vehicle traffic dangers, inadequate storage and office space, interior and exterior building decay and a lack of equipment decontamination areas. The garage overhead clearance is limited for fire engines. In addition, it costs $12,000 a year to heat.
“I find it troublesome to go out and enforce codes on the citizens of Bow when our own station does not meet many of these codes,” said Capt. Don Eaton in the video.
At the request of Bow Fire Chief Dana Abbott, an inspection of the fire station was conducted May 1. Investigators William Clark and Ronald Anstey found several violations. The department was instructed to hire an engineer to design a code compliance plan by Sept. 15 and bring on-site firefighters’ residential occupancy codes up to date by Nov. 1, with full compliance of all codes by September 2016.
According to the report, the violations throughout the building include non-compliant railings, interior finishes, electrical wiring; limited exit access in some areas; inadequate venting of boiler and water heater; leaking waste line; and disturbed ceiling materials. The electrical system inspection revealed a main panel capacity of 225 amps, and the generator is not protected from traffic. Many other violations were noted.
The town has been working on a plan for a new public safety facility for about six years, said Town Manager David Stack. But because of the Fire Marshal’s Office ruling, the town now has to bring the building up to code.
Bow selectmen, fire personnel and Stack had discussed moving walls within the fire station to comply with living quarters codes, but decided to build new residential quarters for firefighters at the Coffin Building, also known as the Rescue Building, in the back of the station. Construction began Oct. 23, at a cost of about $30,000. The cost of switching the fire chief’s office and the sleeping quarters at the fire station would have been $50,000. The cost to fix the electrical system at the fire station/community building is estimated at about $175,000 to $225,000.
“The night-time firefighters will be based there,” Stack said. “They can also fit an ambulance in that building so they’ll be able to go on ambulance calls. If they need an engine for a fire call, they’ll have to run to the fire station.”
As the town works to bring the fire station up to code, it is continuing to design a new facility to house the fire, police and rescue services in one building. The proposed building would be located at the corner of Knox and Logging Hill roads, where the gazebo and park is situated. A proposed community center would also be located on the 17-acre, town-owned parcel. The gazebo and park would be moved to the fire station’s current location.
Voters failed to approve a $7.7 million bond for a 30,000-square-foot public safety facility in March by 20 votes; a two-thirds majority voted was required, Stack said.
The town is looking to streamline the $7.7 million bond, and is expecting to present a new plan to voters in March.
“We’re looking at design changes and (to) build a building that will last 50 years,” said Stack. “We looked at population trends, and we’re looking at leaving some portions of the building incomplete for future construction. We do want to bring a lower price and proposal to the townspeople that will fit the town’s needs. We don’t want to come back in five to 10 years.”
However, the immediate need is to fulfill the fire marshal’s requirements and keep residents informed of the process, he said.
“It’s given us time to really encourage residents to inspect the existing facilities,” said Stack. “We’ve had open houses and also invited groups in the 55 and up neighborhoods who wanted to take a look at those facilities. Most people don’t get a chance to do that.”
To view the video, visit www.bow-nh.com and click on New Public Safety Facility Project.