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Lieutenant Ryan VanderLinden, Division Chief George Wilson, Engineer Shane Merlihan, Battalion Chief Lee Bruchez

Image: Ryan Dearth

When the Eagle River Fire Protection District (ERFPD) opened its new Station 7 in Avon last September, it was a long-overdue upgrade from its previous home across the street from Nottingham Park—a converted warehouse the city’s Public Works Department had vacated in the 1980s. The newly minted $9.5 million firehouse (also home to the city’s police department) boasts a garage large enough to house the department’s ladder engine, a west-facing balcony for practicing high-angle rope rescues, a gym stocked with kettle bells and barbells, and enough space to eventually house a second engine company.

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Image: Ryan Dearth

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Image: Ryan Dearth

Perhaps the most attention-getting design element of the new firehouse, however, is the bright red metal slide on the south side of the engine bay that drops three stories from the crew’s living quarters. While a 45-foot pole still provides a more conventional mode of upstairs egress (at least by firefighting standards), the sleeping quarters–adjacent slide provides a straightforward (or downward) way of responding to the alarm during middle-of-the-night emergencies. “When the guys are just waking up, this is a safety feature for us,” says ERFPD Chief of Planning and Logistics George Wilson. “We need to get them downstairs quickly; the goal is to have them rolling out the door in 90 seconds from the time dispatch alerts them.” Red lighting (installed specifically for just-woken eyes) guides firefighters to a sealed hatch, where one-by-one, they pop themselves into the mouth of the slide and emerge seconds later 30 feet below. Pressed on whether the team has found any recreational use for the new slide, Wilson maintains that his crews keep things professional, but admits it was a thrill when first installed. “The guys have all enjoyed it,” he concedes. “I think most people in the department have tried it out at some point.”

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