Thirty years hardly seems temporary

Penny Hornsby
Administrative Assistant
Public Works/Engineering Department
City of Missouri City, Texas
Member, Small Cities/Rural Communities Forum

Missouri City, Texas is a midsize city, extremely diverse in every conceivable demographic capacity. In the early 1970s, a house burned down in the Fondren Park/Fonmeadow subdivision. The reason? A train blocked access of fire crews to the neighborhood. Immediately, a decision was made to place a fire station in the area. This was a problem because the plot of land needed for the Missouri City firehouse was in Harris County, not Fort Bend, which is Missouri City's county. An agreement was reached between the two entities and a decision was made to place a "temporary" fire station on the cusp of Fondren Park and Fonmeadow subdivisions.

In the mid-70s, a tiny building consisting of a brick fa‡ade and corrugated steel siding was delivered to the fire department to serve the area. With a field of horses and cattle behind, a couple of quaint subdivisions beside, the 2,000-square-foot facility, still considered temporary, housed two firemen, until 2002. Inside this structure was one sleeping area, one small bathroom, a day room, a minuscule kitchen, one closet and a 30' x 40' apparatus room.

Due to recent changes in the code requiring three firemen per truck instead of two, the decision was made to move the crews to a mobile home behind the facility. The reasoning was two-fold: primarily, the building was not considered safe for occupancy and, secondarily, it simply did not have the room to house an additional crewmember.

It became immediately apparent that a permanent structure was needed. In 2003, the citizens approved $1.842 million in bond money to build a new Fire Station #2. The Public Works Department of Missouri City facilitated a committee of firemen to go over the footprint of Fire Stations #3 and #4 and reconfigure the elevations and layout to make the best possible design for their needs. After an arduous design and bid phase which was handled by the Public Works Department, the contract for construction was awarded on August 7, 2006 for a new, permanent Fire Station #2.

The demolition of Fire Station #2 to make way for the permanent Fire Station

The construction is scheduled to take 300 days at a cost of $1.63 million. Bass Construction holds the construction contract and the design engineer is Hall Barnum Lucchesi Architects. The completed project will be 7,864 square feet which will include five dorm rooms including a lieutenant's room, four bathrooms, fire and lieutenant's offices, a spacious TV room and kitchen (complete with three refrigerators for each of the three crews that will do rotating shift work for the community), multiple closets, and a 38' x 58' apparatus room with compartmentalized gear and breathing rooms. A state-of-the-art dryer cabinet is being installed to aid in lengthening the life of the fire staff's uniforms. The apparatus room is a drive-through bay, allowing the fire truck to be driven in the back and leave through the front of the building.

This, however, was no "simple" construction project. The land had been acquisitioned as park land for Missouri City. The firemen could not just vacate the building and wait for another to be built. The citizens still needed their service and protection. With exceptional collaborative efforts between Public Works, the Fire Department and the Parks Department, the mobile home with all the necessary equipment was moved (through fields and around tennis courts!) and a temporary facility to house the fire truck was built upon the new concrete driveway. Demolition of the original building was scheduled and a photo op event ensued. Weather calendars were checked and finally the date of January 25, 2007 was selected to be the day of the ceremony. Invitations were sent. Power, gas, cable and emergency operations were cut to the trailer and reestablished with no interruption of fire service to the residents of the area. The building was emptied of all salvageable equipment.

The piece of concrete that was removed and saved for the new firehouse

The week leading up to the demolition saw nothing but rain. However, on Thursday the 25th, the day was perfectly clear and crisp. Tables with refreshments were set up, the PA system was strategically placed, and guests began to arrive. Council members, fire and police chiefs, homeowner's association representatives as well as citizens and employees from the city were all in attendance. The City's own MCTV came out to interview attendees and document the occasion. While waiting for the initial blow of the dozer signaling the start of the demolition, one of the guests looked down at the pavement of the driveway leading into the bay where the fire truck had been kept for all those years. Etched into the concrete read "1-25-77."

The construction of the first temporary Fire Station #2 was completed thirty years to the day of the scheduled demolition. The schedule was halted until the Missouri City Public Works Streets Team could come, sawcut the block of concrete and remove it. Although it forced the ceremony over schedule by an hour, no one seemed to mind. Plans are underway to sink the concrete block next to the entry of the new building with a simple brass plaque marking the significant timing of the prior building's beginning and end.

Missouri City would like to give a special thanks to Fire Chief Russell Sanders and Assistant Fire Chief Mike Youngblood for their historical input.

Penny Hornsby can be reached at (281) 403-8577 or PHornsby@ci.mocity.tx.us.