GALVESTON — Should another hurricane bring nine feet of water to the West End and inundate the city’s newest fire station, there should be no trouble finding the doors if they are washed away by the rising tide.
After all, it’s hard to miss something when it’s painted bright green.
Shades of yellow-green are recurring accents at the $3.8 million Fire Station No. 4, located at Scholes International Airport, which is funded entirely by a federal Community Development Block Grant.
The numbers on the bay doors are green, and the staircases and the concrete pylons are green, as is the paneling in the upstairs kitchen.
The goal wasn’t to be garish, said the building’s designers, but to recall modern firefighting vehicles, which studies have been shown are more visible when they’re lime-colored instead of a more traditional red.
“That’s the new color for fire departments,” said Stephen Ratcliffe, the project director for HDR Architects, the firm behind the new building. “Plus, if you’re somebody like me, who’s colorblind in the red spectrum, red doesn’t stand out at all.”
The paint job is hardly the only modern touch at the station.
For instance, instead of a large, shared bunkroom and shower area, the station has eight individual dorm rooms, each with its own shower, toilet, desk and pulldown bed.
And instead of a fire pole, the station has a bright red spiral slide. At 30 feet high, it’s a safer method for a quick trip downstairs.
Perhaps most importantly, the building is designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, a particular concern because the previous station on the same site was destroyed in 2008 and has left first responders operating out of a double-wide trailer for years.
“This is a building that will stand the test of time,” Galveston fire chief Jeff Smith said. “Our goal is to be able to get back into this building within 24 to 48 hours of a hurricane to provide service to the West End of the island.”
The new station is designed with the idea that the downstairs portion can be flooded and even have some its acrylic walls washed away without leaving lasting damage.
The upper floor, home to the dorms, kitchen, offices and radio room, is set high enough to avoid floodwaters, has its own generator and is built with materials, such as dense Brazilian ipe wood, meant to withstand years of coastal weather.
“It’s imperative that we picked something that we thought worked both aesthetically and functionally,” architect Michael Alread said of the choice of hardwood floors.
Alread said ipe was one of the few materials that met Texas windstorm building guidelines, which require materials that can resist winds up to 110 mph.
The building was designed by HDR Architecture and constructed by the Crain Group, a Houston contractor. Even before the building was constructed, its design received awards from the Texas Society of Architects and the American Institute of Architects.
The station celebrated its grand opening Tuesday, but firefighters won’t officially move in until March 1. While the builders put the finishing touches on the station, Smith said that there are no plans to repaint vehicles to match their new digs — though if the city ever gets a new truck, it’s a safe bet what color it will be.