After working out of the same building for more than 60 years, the Oakland Fire Department moved this past weekend into its new, $2.6 million headquarters.

The department, with a full-time chief and 28 call firefighters, has been operating out of a 4,000-square-foot station at 11 Fairfield St. since the 1950s.

The new, 12,000-square-foot station is part of a three-phase construction project to replace the Oakland police station, which was opened in 2016, the fire station and the Town Office.

The old fire station will be torn down in the next two weeks to make way for a shared parking lot for the Police and Fire departments and the Town Office.

Improving safety and efficiency were the main objectives when the new fire station was being designed, according to Chief David Coughlin.

This meant widening the garage doors from 10 feet at the old station to 14 at the new one, installing a system to draw out exhaust fumes from the trucks and building individual rooms for various items or uses, such as emergency medical services, firefighting gear, equipment and training.

“This new station provides for safer and more efficient operations,” Coughlin said. “Things like the trench drains under the trucks make it less likely for slips. Having a separate room for the gear means we no longer have to suit up near the trucks.

“There is now ample room to work. We used to clean our tools and equipment in the bathroom or kitchen and now we have a dedicated space for that. This brings all of our equipment and supplies under one roof as opposed to before where we had things all over the place.”

Oakland Fire Chief David Coughlin is pictured with gear in the locker room at the old Oakland Fire Department building in Oakland Sunday. Coughlin said the wall and doorway were widened to remove equipment. A larger locker room is part of the new building next door to the old station in Oakland. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

The new station also has a commercial-grade kitchen, a bunk room, a conference room, meeting space, multiple all-gender bathrooms and built-in training features.

A mezzanine in the garage area of the station has a prop window for ladder training, a prop manhole for training in confined spaces, a staircase for hose training and a room to do search-and-rescue drills.

“When we looked into the design of the station, we wanted to have some built-in training features,” Coughlin said.

Creation of the new station began in August 2018 when the Town Council and budget advisory committee approved the project and its $2.6 million budget.

At two public hearings in September and October 2018, community members voiced concerns about the impact the new station would have on taxes. But as Town Manager Gary Bowman explained, the Central Maine Power Co. substation built in Oakland in 2019 would generate enough revenue over 30 years to pay off the bond the town used to fund the new fire station.

By a vote of 1,835 to 990, the project was approved in the November election and ground was broken last April.

This week, the department is set to start reporting from the new station.

“We had 23 out of 28 firefighters here this weekend helping us move in,” Coughlin said. “We’re almost there. We just have a few more things to do.”

Though Coughlin said he and others in the department are excited about the future in the new station, saying goodbye to the old one has made some feel sentimental and nostalgic.

“We’re so excited for this new station, but there’s also been a lot of reminiscing about the old station,” Coughlin said.

“There’s a lot of memories in that place. Some of our members have been here for more than 50 years. For me, I’ve been here 29 years and I’m a third-generation Oakland firefighter, so there’s definitely a lot of stories and memories.”

In order to keep the history alive, the new equipment room was named the “Atlantic Room” and the conference room the “Dunn Conference.” The Atlantic Hand Tub was an original piece of firefighting equipment that dates to the 1880s, and the Dunn Edge Tool Co. was an ax factory on the land on which the original station was built and was one of the first stakeholders in the Oakland Fire Department.

Significant involvement came from local businesses that donated manpower and offered discounted pricing on equipment rentals to reduce the costs of the project by more than $64,000.

Coughlin said the project will come in at or below the $2.6 million budget.

Services and discounts came from Messalonskee Stream Hydro; Rossignol Excavating Inc.; William Mushero Inc.; United Rental; Woodsmiths Manufacturing; Eagle Rental of Waterville; and Central Maine Power Co.

“Everyone has been involved, from town officials, firefighters, the community members,” Coughlin said. “We have a really nice, well-thought-out facility that everyone can take ownership and pride in.”

A public open house and dedication are scheduled for April 25.

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