In September 2008, Hurricane Ike wreaked havoc on Galveston Island and beyond, destroying homes, businesses, trees — and a fire station.
The storm left Station N. 4, 8710 Cessna Drive on the island’s West End, in shambles and uninhabitable. And it left seven firefighters without their second home, reducing their workplace to a trailer while the station was repaired.
“Station Four was completely destroyed by Ike’s storm surge,” Fire Chief Mike Wisko said. “We were unable to reopen after Ike, so we ended up putting up a trailer in the parking lot where they literally had to work out of for five years.”
The city of Galveston in 2010 hired HDR Architects to design a new station capable of surviving future disasters. Pearland-based Crain Group won the bid to build the new station. The project cost almost $4 million.
Station Four now serves as a beacon for the community and allows the firefighters to better serve the city, Wisko said.
The station, which was originally built in 1982, reopened in February of 2013.
“I wasn’t involved in the initial design plans due to my role in the department at the time, but once I did get involved it was during the construction phase,” Wisko said. “HDR worked really well with us and the city. They worked hard to capture our needs and to make sure that everything went smoothly.”
Problems appeared in 2013 shortly after the station opened when exposed piping along the ceiling of the apparatus bay began to rust.
“This is simply a result of living on the Gulf Coast and the corrosion that occurs due to the salt water content and humidity we experience daily,” Wisko said.
“Our city facilities team does an outstanding job of ensuring the upkeep and maintenance for us,” Wisko said.
Almost 10 years after it was destroyed, Fire Station No. 4 is being featured in a short documentary film titled “Station Four,” which depicts its road to recovery.
The film is a part of the fourth annual American Institute of Architects’ Film Challenge, which invited architects and filmmakers to collaborate in telling stories of architects, civic leaders and their communities working together toward positive community change.
“Station Four” particularly shines light on design solutions during natural disaster preparedness, creating a greater awareness and appreciation architects provide communities, said John Gordon, videographer and owner of The Modern Reel, which filmed the project.
“We decided to first focus in on the story of the firefighters,” Gordon said. “We know that their service is truly important to the wellness of the community, and we needed to show how their second home, the station, plays a huge part in that. Our job as the production company was to find a compelling and cinematic way to do that.”
The challenge, which is open to public voting at AIAFilmChallenge.org through Oct. 7, gave Gordon and his producers an opportunity to show the importance of stories like “Station Four,” he said.
“I think the practice of filmmaking is both a visual and emotional medium, much like architecture,” Gordon said. “They both have the ability to spark inspiration, send a message and overall speak to a large audience.”
A panel of judges made up of architects and film/media professionals will select the Grand Prize Winner, but the public’s input is needed to select the People’s Choice Winner.
Fans can vote for three- to five-minute documentary-style short films that Film Challenge participants have produced, shot and edited. The winning film will be celebrated with a screening at Chicago Ideas Festival on Oct. 18, drawing a national spotlight to the problems cities are currently facing.
Station Four’s $4 million-dollar facility has eight rooms with a bathroom and shower in each one, a large state-of-the-art kitchen, lockers and a day room, Wisko said.
“I think the new station renewed their pride and spirit in the department,” Wisko said. “They went from working in a trailer for five years to a building that they can call ‘home.’ They have everything they need to help them through their 24-hour shifts. Having a nice place to work at makes coming to work a joy, and I’m sure that’s the sentiment that they have at Station Four.”
The station also better serves the community and, if it wins the film challenge, will be a point of pride for Galveston, Wisko said.
“To be recognized in any fashion is commendable, and it’s one we don’t take lightly,” Wisko said. WHAT: AIA Film Challenge — “Station Four” (Galveston’s entry)
WHEN: Voting is open to the public at AIAFilmChallenge.org through Oct. 7