A $186,000 expansion of the Mayville Fire Department hall provides room for growth in a department that’s aiming higher with a recent purchase of emergency equipment and a bid for a grant to buy an aerial firefighting vehicle.
The project, nearing completion at the hall at 6044 Trend St., almost doubles the hall’s size and adds a garage with three bays and a 20-foot-high ceiling that’s higher than the ceiling in the existing hall, part of which was built in 1956.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said John Gorde, a supporter of the project and a Mayville fireman for 53 years.
“It’s going to open things up for us — you can see how hard it is to get around inside this fire hall, and we just ran out of space years ago,” said Robert Hiiter, Mayville Fire Department chief. “We have vehicles double-stacked (inside the garage).”
Hiiter illustrates his point by showing spots where firefighting vehicles are parked in front of other firefighting vehicles – with two vehicles waiting to exit the fire hall from the same bay in several locations inside the existing garage.
The fire hall expansion is “a big deal for the community, and something we can be proud of,” added Terry Blackmer, assistant chief of the Mayville Fire Department, which serves Fremont Township including the village of Mayville, part of Dayton Township in Tuscola County and part of Rich Township in northern Lapeer County.
“It looks nice, it’s a great building and it’s open to the community to use,” Blackmer said. “We’re proud of it.”
Workers last added onto the fire hall in the early 1970s. Hiiter said the department will move firefighting vehicles within a month into the new addition, paid for by money from the Lois Arlene Western Mayville Charitable Trust.
“It’s not costing the village itself a penny – not a dime,” said Barbara Valentine, village president in Mayville, population 950, in southern Tuscola County.
The department has applied for a $500,000 grant to buy an aerial firefighting truck and will find out in July if it receives the funds. If the department acquires such a vehicle, the higher ceiling in the expanded area will allow for storage of the truck.
Increasing prevalence of metal roofs on buildings is one reason to buy an aerial firefighting vehicle equipped with a ladder, Hiiter said.
“The metal roofs do make it difficult to get on the roof to ventilate for chimney fires and that type of stuff, but we have our downtown area and we have two- and three-story structures that are out in the community where it would be a huge benefit for us to have some type of an aerial truck,” Hiiter said.
Blackmer said an aerial firefighting vehicle also would aid the department at a fire or emergency at large grain bins and agricultural structures on area farms.
“Then you think of another thing people are dealing with nowadays, which is cellphone towers,” Blackmer said. “When you do any type of rescue off of those, you need to be able to get up to them.”
When asked how high the bucket at the end of the ladder would extend, Blackmer said “You could go anywhere from 109 feet to 55 feet, but we’re looking somewhere in the middle of that.”
“We want to buy something that’s within our needs,” added Blackmer. “If we get the federal grant, we’ll get a new one.”
Mayville would have to contribute 5 percent of the grant amount if the department is awarded the grant.
The department also received funds from the Lois Arlene Western Mayville Charitable Trust two years ago to buy portable, battery-powered extrication equipment – one piece that cuts through objects such as metal and a spreader that pulls metal apart.
“These are designed for all the new cars, because all the new cars have that high-tensile-strength steel,” Blackmer said.
Blackmer added that “you can use them for vehicle accidents or take them into a factory if somebody got caught in an industrial accident, or take them anywhere you needed to go.”
Older extrication equipment had to be hooked into the hydraulic pump on a firefighting vehicle.
“We have about 50 feet of hose on the other truck, and you had to stay within about 50 feet of your scene,” Blackmer said. “But with these, I can take them anywhere. If a tree falls on somebody, you can get there.”
The Lois Arlene Western Mayville Charitable Trust has paid for a variety of improvements around Mayville.
Valentine said the late Western “was a lifelong resident and she did fantastic things while she was a resident of Mayville, and then to leave that kind of money to us – it’s just a fantastic gift, and you can see her legacy on every corner here.”
The expansion of the fire hall, overseen by J.T. Piche Co. of Mayville, is the first phase of three phases of improvements to the building. A second phase involves renovating existing space to create a training room for the department’s 28 firefighters – a room that could also serve as a spot for Mayville Village Council meetings.
A third phase would renovate the kitchen inside the fire hall, where volunteers host a chicken barbecue and soup supper in addition to meetings of firefighters from other departments in Tuscola and Lapeer counties.
The other two phases “will be paid for through fundraisers or additional grants we’re trying to write to finish the project,” Blackmer said.
“Training is very important to us, and we train monthly, and more, usually right here,” Hiiter said.
The department stores seven firefighting vehicles at its hall. A fire truck purchased in 2009 with village funds was the first of two firefighting trucks purchased that year.
A few months after workers began building the truck, “a federal grant came through to us, so we ordered the second truck,” Hiiter said. One of the trucks is a pumper-tanker, while the other is a tanker.
“When we roll out of our fire hall on a structure fire, we roll out with 7,000 gallons of water,” said Hiiter, indicating that’s more water than many small-town area departments carry when destined for a fire scene.
Blackmer, who writes grant applications for the department, said the department seeks grants “all the time.”
The higher ceiling in the addition at the fire hall will allow department members to work indoors to maintain the motor and transmission on several department vehicles.
“If we want to get to the engine compartment, we can’t even lift the hood (in the existing garage) on this vehicle, because that whole cab (roof) lifts and goes up toward the front of the vehicle, so if we have to do anything under the hood, we have to pull it outside,” Hiiter said.
“That’s not bad in the summertime, but in the wintertime, it makes it tough.”
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at [email protected]