Port Arthur looking to relocate, upgrade two fire stations

Published 12:52 am Saturday, December 4, 2021

Officials with the Port Arthur Fire Department and city staff currently are reviewing the relocation of two fire stations to improve response time, current technology; and potentially allowing for additional amenities such as police substations, community rooms and health care areas for EMT crews.

Fire Chief Greg Benson gave a presentation to City Council this week at the request of Councilman Thomas Kinlaw regarding the relocation of Fire Station No. 2 and Fire Station No. 3.

Station No. 2, located at 1201 Grannis Ave., was built in 1971 and is approximately 5,600 square feet. Station No. 3, located at 2232 Canal Street, was constructed in 1961 and is the same size as No. 2.

The red circle on the right shows the radius surrounding the current location of Fire Station No. 2, while the red circle on the left shows the radius surrounding the proposed new location. The small white dots show calls for service within the last year. (Screen shot)

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Both stations have only one engine and three personnel. They each have a boat, but no vehicle that can tow it. And neither have a diesel exhaust system.

“Right now none of our stations have diesel exhaust systems, so when they start the vehicles, the diesel exhaust stays in the apparatus bay,” Benson said.

And while one of the more urgent needs in relation to its safety hazard, it’s just one of the many things that have been taken into consideration as plans to build new stations are made.

Benson called it a multi-dimensional process that relies on identifying the best locations based on the growth patterns of the city.

“Also looking at…opportunities to partner or work with other entities such as: Is there interest in having a community section in the fire station for community members to gather? Is there interest in having an area in some cases for police to have a substation depending on the particular needs?” he said. “And also another emerging area is looking at community health needs. All of those things have to be factored in as we look at the process.”

One of the issues fire department personnel are facing is the doors of the station are not large enough for the engines.

A couple of the stations we have right now, the doors — getting the truck in and out — you have about 6 or 8 inches on each side of the (vehicle) because when those stations were built, the vehicles were smaller,” Benson said. “And that is one of the many things that can affect response time.”

In a presentation made to Council Tuesday, Benson said the plan is to relocate Station No. 2 to Thomas Boulevard and Houston Avenue — approximately a mile from its current location. The proposed spot for Station No. 3 is Ray Street and 61st Street.

Benson said some of the amenities being looked at by the department and city staff include upgrading technology for future growth, adding social areas where personnel can gather after returning from difficult situations, adding decontamination stations so chemicals aren’t brought into the living quarters, and upgrading restrooms.

“Even though at this time we do not have any women on the job, hopefully that will change in the future,” Benson said. “We need appropriate restroom facilities for both genders.”

The fire chief said the next steps will be to finalize locations, initiate the design process, identify construction funding levels, find a contractor and ultimately open the new locations.

Benson was lauded by council members who all thanked him for the presentation.

“I put it on (the agenda) because of my growing concern, and as soon as you came on board we talked a little about it,” Kinlaw said. “You hit all my high points — health and safety, the building age, location, response time, event safety, as well as community rooms, substations and technology. It’s time for new technology to address the needs of our city.”

Councilwoman Ingrid Holmes remarked on the idea of turning the new stations into multi-use facilities.

“I appreciate your consideration and staff’s consideration to create those fire stations to be more than just fire stations,” she said. “And I appreciate the idea of partnering and collaborating with our private ambulance companies that we currently have so they are in better position to respond.”