Brunswick’s fleet of fire trucks sit in the new Central Station’s apparatus bay. John Terhune / The Times Record

After more than a century serving the town from the historic Central Fire Station at Town Hall Place, the Brunswick Fire Department is adjusting to its new, thoroughly modern digs.

Yet-to-be hung pictures line the floors of the new Central Fire Station, a $13 million, 26,000-square-foot behemoth at 119 Pleasant St. Shelves in what will eventually serve as a display museum sit mostly empty, awaiting the memorabilia.

Since completing its move in mid-December, the department’s roughly 40 members have been too busy getting their feet under them (and troubleshooting their access keycards) to focus much on interior decorating, Chief Ken Brillant said.

“We’re still trying to move stuff and get operational,” he said. “You can’t live in a place for 103 years and then open up a space and just have it happen.”

But when things are up and running, he said during a tour of the facility last week, Brunswick’s new Central Fire Station will offer its firefighters major safety and comfort upgrades, improvements that should carry the department well into the 21st century.

Fire Chief Ken Brillant demonstrates how Brunswick firefighters in 1872 would have operated the hand tub “Niagara” in the station’s fire history display museum. John Terhune / The Times Record

Centuries of history

Though Brunswick’s Fire Department has moved on from the building it called home since 1919, it won’t be leaving behind the lineage of those who came before.


Befitting a profession Brillant called “steeped in history,” the new station’s display museum offers the public an opportunity to view relics of the department’s past: a handwritten logbook from 1963, a street box formerly used to transmit alerts to the department and the Niagara, a hand tub Brunswick used to fight fires as far back as 1872.

The objects are meant to show how firefighting has changed — but also how it’s stayed the same.

“We still put water on fires,” Brillant said. “We just do it a different way.”


By the end of the department’s time downtown, it had outgrown the tight quarters of the Central Fire Station. When department leaders needed to talk something over with a firefighter, the meeting would take place wherever they could find a quiet spot — even if that spot was someone’s living space.

“OK, sit on the bed,” Brillant said, recounting the less-than-ideal encounters. “Because I’ve got no other place to sit.”

Now, an administration wing offers enough office space to create a buffer between living and working areas.


During storms, Brillant’s team can convert conference and training rooms to the team’s Emergency Operations Center, which previously sat in a separate building due to size limitations at the old station. Armed with televisions, radios and computer screens, the new EOC will allow the department to more efficiently respond during the most dangerous days of the year.

The station’s larger kitchen has enough room to easily seat a full shift of 10 firefighters for a meal. John Terhune / The Times Record

Living quarters

Even when the old station’s bunk rooms weren’t being pressed into service as makeshift meeting spaces, they weren’t particularly comfortable, according to Brillant. Three firefighters working 24-hour shifts would have to share a single bunk room. Trips to the kitchen required walking through a musty basement hallway that collected dripping water from the apparatus bay above.

Now, each on-duty firefighter has their own room equipped with a desk, while double-wide storage lockers provide plenty of room for clothes, toiletries and other essentials. The new station also features upgrades heating and cooling systems, extra showers, laundry machines and a fitness room, all amenities aimed at improving quality of life in a line of work that is struggling to attract new workers.

“I don’t know if it will attract extra people,” Brillant said of the station’s living quarters. “It won’t hurt.”

Firefighting gear hangs in lockers off the apparatus bay. The new station’s layout allows for dirty gear to be safely cleaned without contaminating living areas. John Terhune / The Times Record

Apparatus bay

The comfort improvements extend to the apparatus bay, which offers enough space to clean and move vehicles without the complicated series of maneuvers it took to operate out of Town Hall Place.

“At the old station, they were right on top of each other,” Brillant said. “We were always flip-flopping — you have to move this truck to get that truck. We don’t do that anymore.”


Perhaps more important are the new building’s modern safety improvements.

Fire stations have been changing their safety policies over the past decade, as more information has emerged about the profession’s high rates of cancers like mesothelioma, leukemia and lung cancer. While Brunswick’s Fire Department instituted a policy of keeping dirty gear in a separate “hot zone” until it could be decontaminated, the old station’s tight quarters made it impossible to keep living and working areas totally separate.

The new station, designed with modern practices in mind, makes for a much smoother decontamination process, allowing Brunswick’s protectors to better protect themselves.

New life for an old station

As the Fire Department adjusts to its new home, others in Brunswick are working to repurpose the building that served it well for more than 100 years. A majority of the more than 500 community members responding to a survey from the Historic Central Fire Station Redevelopment Advisory Committee said they wanted to prioritize historic preservation, green space or affordable housing when the town searches for a new use for the space.

The committee is currently working on using that community feedback to develop a vision for an RFP, which it could present to the Town Council next month, said Brunswick Economic Development Project Manager Chrissy Adamowicz. If the Town Council approves, the Brunswick will hear proposals from developers hoping to buy and renovate the station.

“Our fire department has been working out of there for over 100 years, so that in and of itself is really special,” she said. “We’re hoping that whatever developments are proposed will honor that and help it continue to be special into the future.”

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