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Marion hopes to open third fire station in May

Department still searching for a site for fourth station

Construction continues Thursday on a new Marion fire station at 1000 Irish Dr. The 20,000-square-foot station will be th
Construction continues Thursday on a new Marion fire station at 1000 Irish Dr. The 20,000-square-foot station will be the third station for the department. It also will be the department’s headquarters, housing administrative offices. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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MARION — Marion’s first new fire station since 1991, when the city’s population was half what it is today, could open before summer following months of detours with a pandemic and derecho during construction.

“We’re looking at May 1,” Fire Chief Deb Krebill said. “That’s been changing so not for sure, but that’s our goal. The most recent goal.”

Once operating, the new station, at 1000 Irish Dr., will be named Fire Station 1. The current Fire Station 1, at 600 Eighth Ave., will be renamed Fire Station 3. The current headquarters is at Fire Station 2, 3933 Katz Dr.

Christner Construction of Ottumwa is the company constructing the new $10.3 million station and OPN is the architectural firm behind the design. Krebill said she is hoping the project will be under budget.

Between taking extra precautions to keep workers healthy and material production being affected by the pandemic, Krebill said, the process of constructing the facility was slowed.

“COVID wrecked some havoc on some construction companies,” she said.

And of course, there was the Aug. 10 derecho.

“The new structure was damaged so repairs had to be made on that,” Krebill said.

When Krebill joined the department in 1991, Fire Station 2 was just being built and the population of Marion was about 20,000.

“Since then, we are over 40,000 and we still only have two stations,” said Krebill, who became chief in 2014.

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In 2015, an accreditation study found that Marion needs four fire stations, with the fourth being located near Highway 13 and 35th Avenue.

The national standard of response times is four minutes for EMS calls and six minutes for fires. The new stations would ensure that Marion continues to meet those times as the city continues to grow over the next decade, Krebill said.

Last summer, the Marion City Council approved buying land for $1.1 million for a fourth station. The city budgeted $400,000 for the project while the Marion Firefighters Association would cover the other $695,000, largely through a trust.

The plan was to build the fourth station and training center at the Tri State Towers property, 2957 Highway 13.

Bur “the derecho hit and caused extensive damage to the property before we signed the papers to take it, so we do not have that land now,” Krebill said. “So we’re looking for land for Station 4 right now. We’re still looking to have the training facility in the same place” as Fire Station 4.

For now, though, the focus is on preparing for the third fire station.

The department hired three new firefighters each year from 2016 through 2020, adding 12 firefighters to a team that now has 41 career and 25 paid-on-call firefighters.

The department’s operational budget has increased each year over the last decade as the department has grown and plans to expand further.

In 2012, the budget was over $2.8 million. Last year, the department’s budget was over $5.1 million and this year it’s about $6 million, which includes a one-time additional $250,000 for the equipment and furnishings of the new station, Krebill said.

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Krebill said the only increase in costs for next year’s budget with the new station operating would be the cost of the added utilities.

“Which we have maintained the most energy efficient, so the costs should be minimal,” she said. “Next year we will be looking at possibly solar installation for the station.”

The new station is being designed to keep firefighters safer as they wake up for calls and return from battling fires. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, cancer and cardiac arrest are the leading killers of firefighters.

Krebill said the station will be divided into different “zones” based on risk of contaminant exposure. When firefighters return from fires, they can be covered in soot that contains carcinogens.

Red zones are where equipment involved in emergency response and exposed to carcinogens are kept. Yellow zones separate the red and green zones and house storage, cleaning and decontamination facilities, including personal shower spaces. Green zones are living spaces and neutral spaces like the lobby.

“We want to make sure our stations help with the health of our firefighters,” Krebill said. “Once our new station is done, stations 1 and 2 are scheduled for remodels to get that.”

Marion firefighters, like those in most cities, work in 24-hour shifts, keeping a shift on duty all day and overnight.

The new station will have immersive design that will use lighting, color and nature to help with the emotional health of firefighters.

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“When people see the new station design, they say ‘that’s a lot of glass’ and it is,” Krebill said. “It is because it helps with light and the circadian rhythms.”

Krebill said the new station also will feature a safer way to wake firefighters during their long shift to respond to an emergency call. Typically, it’s a loud and sudden alarm.

“The shock to your body on waking up suddenly like that can actually injure your heart over time,” Krebill said. “So we will have a tone that increases more gradually and that helps wake them in a more natural way.”

Comments: (319) 398-8255; gage.miskimen@thegazette.com

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