Fire stations of the world: Spring Fire Department Station 74, Texas, US
The Spring Fire Department is located in Spring, Texas, approximately 25 miles north of downtown Houston. Founded in 1953, Spring Fire is one of the largest combination fire departments in the state of Texas serving 156 000 residents across 62 square miles of unincorporated Harris County. Spring Fire Department celebrated the grand opening of Station No 74, located at 24030 Old Aldine Westfield Road, Spring, on 5 October 2019. Spring Fire Department Chief Scott Seifert said the new station, which opened in late August, is a replacement facility, as the original Station No 74 did not include sleeping quarters. According to Assistant Fire Chief Robert Logan, the new facility was built to be energy efficient and includes a large living room and kitchen, as well as more apparatus bay space that can accommodate added apparatus in the future. In addition to 11 dorm rooms, the station has a training area that can also be used as a community meeting room. The building was designed and built to withstand 150-mile-per-hour winds. The original station could fit in the apparatus bay at the new Station 74, with room to spare, which was built at a cost of about $7,4 million, an investment intended to last for decades.
Spring has changed a lot since 1978, when the original Station 74 was built. And the area’s growth is expected to continue. The Spring Fire Department has changed dramatically as well and now operates as a combination career and volunteer organisation under a contract with Harris County Emergency Services District No 7. Bob Schmanski, president of the ESD No 7 board of commissioners, explained that as one of the largest combination fire departments in Texas, a new Station 74 was needed to accommodate fire fighters as they serve a growing community. “The original station was designed as a volunteer fire station — there was nowhere where anybody could sleep and spend the night,” Schmanski said. “As that area started to evolve, we identified that as an area where we need a fire station where we could have 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week coverage.”
The new 16 553-square-foot station is located on Aldine Westfield Road at the corner of Old Aldine Westfield, next to the original station, which the department plans to use for storage. Contractors began clearing land at the site in November 2017 and construction began in April 2018. In addition to LDF Construction, companies hired to help create the new station include BRW Architects, Gessner Engineering, O’Malley Strand Associates, and Jordan and Skala Engineers, according to Donald May, facilities maintenance coordinator for Spring Fire Department.
“When we sat down and decided to build that station, we wanted to look well beyond the term of the current commissioners and the fire fighters that we’ve got,” Schmanski said. “We want a building that at a minimum can last 50 years. The reasoning behind that was we’ve got the resources, we’ve got the capital, we wanted to invest in a building that our fire fighters can operate out of for a very long time but more importantly, it meets the needs of our taxpayers and our citizens. The community meeting room is available to our taxpayers,” Schmanski added. “If a home owners association needs to have a meeting, we’ve got a meeting room for them. If the Boy Scouts want to meet there, if somebody needs a place where they can gather people together, that’s available for our citizens over there.”
“The stations that we built back in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and even the early 2000s - they were never meant to house fire fighters 24/7, so we needed to build state-of-the-art fire stations that would be able to do that,” Seifert said. “[The new station] can also withstand 150mph winds, which is pretty critical during a hurricane.” The old Station 74 had already been around for many years when Spring Fire Chief Scott Seifert joined the department back in 1990. “Back then, we were a volunteer rural department,” Seifert said. “We took donations to buy equipment and fire fighters used to respond from home, come to the station and pick up the fire truck and go to wherever the call is.” “The amount of homes has doubled in our territory over the last 20 years,” Seifert said. “We serve right now about 44 000 homes, compared to 20 000 not too many years ago.”
From 29 April 1953 through 1 April 1978 all money to fund the fire department was raised by bake sales, steer auctions, other community events, personal donations by persons in the community and even by donations from members of the department including their own money to put gas in the fire trucks. From 1 April 1978 until 10 May 1997 Spring Fire Department was funded by the creation of the first Rural Fire Prevention District in Harris County, Texas known as RFPD#1. Residents paid a 3 cent tax for every $100 valuation of their property. Back then the homeowner of a $50 000 house would pay $15 per year for fire protection. From 1997 until 31 March 2020 under a contract with Harris County Emergency Services District No 7, Spring Fire Department provided fire suppression and rescue services to a population of 156 000 residents. This allowed collection of an ad valorem tax of up to a 6 cents per $100 and eventually up to 10 cents per $100 valuation when the legislature allowed the increase.
In an effort that began several years ago the fire department approached Harris County Emergency Services District No 7 to become the direct service provider for the area covered by Spring Fire Department and this became effective 1 April 2020. The Department and the District working jointly to ensure a smooth transition that has been completely transparent to our community.
Spring Fire Department operates out of nine stations, with a fleet of 46 apparatus and led by Fire Chief Scott Seifert. This combination department of 155 personnel comprised of volunteer, part-time and full-time fire fighters who provide the best service for our community.
Their Public Protection Classification (PPC®) rating from ISO is a Class 2 and goes into effect on 1 June 2020. From February 2004 – June 2020 their rating was a Class 3 and prior to February 2004 it was a Class 6/9.
The fire department’s jurisdiction spans 62 square miles across the northern portion of unincorporated Harris County. The general boundaries are FM 2978 and Kuykendahl Road to the west, Spring Creek to the north, Cypress Creek to the south and where Spring Creek and Cypress Creek meet to the East. The department is responsible for portions of Interstate 45, the Hardy Toll Road, and the Grand Parkway, a major rail yard, a gasoline pipeline, natural gas pipelines, creeks to the north and south, mid-rise buildings, numerous apartment complexes, ~44,000 homes in over 100 subdivisions and other areas, Over 25 schools from three different school districts and many commercial businesses of all sizes including Southwestern Energy’s headquarters and the ExxonMobil campus.
Sources: Spring Fire Department and Chron