The search is on for a site to build a new station for the Lodi Area Fire Department.
Earlier in September, local officials were taken on a tour of the current building to show them the facility’s deficiencies.
Size is one of them.
“It’s a problem to try to fit something into this envelope right now,” said Nate Sievers, a member of fire department. He added that the current station is “very tight all the way around.”
Three municipalities are looking at the needs and site requirements for a new fire station. The department serves the City of Lodi, the Town of Lodi and the Town of West Point. At the same time, the City of Lodi is also considering a combined public safety building with fire, EMS and police all under its roof.
The Lodi Common Council, after meeting in closed session on Tuesday, Sept. 21, approved going out to look for a new fire station location.
A 2019 study investigated fire department needs, and an ad hoc Site Selection Committee was created. The committee came up with recommendations based on the study, which concluded that a new fire station was necessary, due to space concerns and maintenance problems.
In a report to the three municipalities, the committee noted that a new site must be a minimum of 2 acres, and it must be outside of a 25-year flood zone. It also has to be within current Insurance Services Office guidelines for response times to schools, while also determining that large lots could be considered if subdivided. Lastly, it was determined that eminent domain will not be used.
During the tour, Sievers said that when it last came time to purchase a new engine, the department had it custom made so the building could accommodate it. The bays are 9’6” tall and 26 feet long. Because of the cramped space, departments from Prairie du Sac and Dane wouldn’t be able to fit their engines in the facility if needed.
John Lehr, also a member of the fire department, talked about how engines can be backing up as firefighters get dressed behind them in one part of the facility. Along the wall are hooks and a bench for firefighters’ clothes. They often have only a few feet of space between the engines and the wall to put on their gear, and Sievers said a locker room is necessary so that firefighters are not running over each other. That can affect response times.
Lehr said Middleton’s department has a separate room with lockers for firefighters to dress.
He also said a new station should have an extra room for maintenance, with room to house the department’s air compressor. Right now, the air compressor sits close to the vehicles.
Another problem is the Main Street traffic near the station.
“From three to five o’clock on a Friday, it can be a mess,” said Lehr.
Also, on the side of the building, rather than there being a platform, a sidewalk runs alongside, creating a possible dangerous situation for pedestrians. Depending on where cars are parked on that street, too, it can be difficult for engines to make necessary turns.
Sievers also said the department currently has very few extra hoses, and that most departments have a room for them.
A separate radio room is also on the wish list. There are also concerns about access to water.
“That’s a significant public safety issue not having enough water,” said Kevin Kessler, a member of the Lodi Area Fire Commission, who represents the Town of West Point.
There is a minimum amount of storage in the facility now. Sievers said that the department has 34 members now and it’s very cramped. If the roster was at 40, he said they’d be at capacity.
Also, during the tour, it was noted that there’s no extra room for washing for pathogens or having a clean environment for personal protective equipment. It would also help to have an extra shower for firefighters so they’re not bringing carcinogens home to their families.
Incredibly, too, the department doesn’t not have a sprinkler system, nor is there a janitor’s closet. There is little space for parking.
Furthermore, the Lodi Area Fire Department is the only Lake Wisconsin area department that doesn’t have a fire boat.
Choosing a site
During the open session of the commission’s September meeting, it was noted that it was unfortunate that the City of Lodi is not centrally positioned in the fire district.
Much of the focus regarding a site has been on the north side of the city, so it could be close to Lodi schools. However, it might then make it more difficult to reach other areas of the district.
Rebuilding at the current location is unlikely, because of the potential for flooding. During the last one in 2019, the department was very close to having to get everything out.
It is recommended that a new facility be 18,000 square feet.
The possibility of having a satellite facility, with a building to house a couple of apparatuses, in Harmony Grove was also raised.
James Brooks, chairman of the Lodi Town Board, emphasized the importance of having options for multiple locations in the decision-making process.