Fire House Fix-Up 

The Memphis Fire Department plans to remodel one of the city's oldest stations.

When pages and emergency calls come over the antiquated loudspeaker at Midtown's No. 11 fire station on Union Avenue, the voices sound a little like Charlie Brown's teacher. Yet this is how the firefighters are expected to receive information, including the addresses of ongoing fires.

A modernized PA system is one of several planned improvements for the nearly 70-year-old fire station. Local architect John Pruett has drawn plans for a total renovation of No. 11 that includes bringing the building up to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, making the station more energy-efficient, and adding gender separations for restrooms and the bed hall.

The improvements are expected to begin next year, but the City Council must first approve funding for the project.

"It's never been totally renovated," Pruett said. "Over the years, some new technology such as air-conditioning has been installed. But the idea now is to go back and comprehensively implement a more modern look and system of communications."

Plans include expanding the tiny kitchen, in which nine firefighters share meals three times a day. Wooden cabinets and countertops will be replaced with stainless-steel versions, and the new stove will have a code-compliant hood with a fire-suppression system.

Cubicles will be added around the eight beds in the upstairs bed hall to allow female firefighters more privacy.

"Today we have firemen and firewomen, and these old buildings were built with one big open room to sleep in," Pruett said.

Built in 1941, the No. 11 station isn't ADA-compliant. Several doorways will be widened to allow for wheelchairs to pass through, and a closet will be remodeled as a restroom for disabled access.

"We're also going to make the station more energy-efficient," Pruett said. "We can re-roof it and put new insulation in the ceiling. Today, I doubt it has any insulation."

Energy-saving appliances will replace dated appliances, and the heating and air system will be upgraded to a more environmentally friendly version.

The exterior will be thoroughly cleaned, but fire department architect Mike Williams said the outside of the building won't change.

"It's a nifty building with limestone and tile," Williams said. "People really relate to that fire station, and they don't want to see anything happen to it."

One other thing will remain the same: four original fire poles located in the back of the station.

"We're keeping the historic elements, like the fire poles," Pruett said. "Any improvements we make, we'll do in the spirit of the architecture that's already there."


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