Jessica Mathews /

The Brighton Area Fire Authority is debuting its newly constructed Fire Station 33 that will better serve both staff and the community.

Fire Chief Mike O’Brian says they started moving in apparatus about two weeks ago and there are some remaining miscellaneous punch-list items but the building is 100% open and it’s working out well for staff. The new building totals just over 11,000-square-feet with three drive-thru bays so crews don’t have to back-in apparatus anymore – which isn’t very functional when responding to emergencies and time is of the essence. It also features crew quarters, a small training room, offices, restrooms and locker rooms, and a kitchen.

The new station is located off Weber Street behind the bowling alley, kitty-corner to Grand River and Old US-23. It’s a big change from the very small old building that O’Brian says many people probably passed while driving and never noticed it was there – although by the numbers it’s usually their second or third busiest of their stations.

O’Brian noted the Authority has really been striving to create a healthy work environment for all staff – noting there are certain things that happen within their profession they want to prevent exposure to. That includes keeping dirty turnout gear from structure fires away from where staff works. O’Brian says the new building has “clean” and “dirty” sides that allows them to keep equipment clean and separate that from where staff might be doing reports or eating meals.

O’Brian said it’s a really nice building with modern architecture that the community can really be proud of and they’re excited to give staff the space they need. That old original building is adjacent to where the new building is located and will be utilized by Brighton Township’s DPW Department.

O’Brian noted they’ve actually been looking for a solution to replace that facility since the late 90’s. Four years ago, the Authority purchased the property immediately adjacent to the existing facility that was up for sale and totals just under four acres. O’Brian said there were a lot of tough logistics that made development of the space very difficult and they started the design process about two years ago.

The new station was funded through a 12-year millage approved by voters in 2019 for capital needs. The Authority encompasses Genoa and Brighton Townships, and the City of Brighton.

O’Brian said they’re grateful for the community support and the new station is something they can be proud of; adding it’s a very functional space and almost everything has a purpose. It was built to last for the next 25 years but there’s also some space on the property to grow if needed.

O’Brian noted they have a lot of special use trailers that are typically parked outside at their facilities. Some include a technical rescue trailer if someone was stuck in a trench or a confined space, a side-by-side sprinkler demonstration trailer, and a driving simulator trailer. At the new station, there’s a pole barn out back for storage. O’Brian says that way they can clean up everything and keep it secure and ready to go if it needs to be used in an emergency.

The Authority is pushing very close to having 10% of its workforce as female, which O’Brian said is actually a lot compared to the national number that’s below 5%. He stressed that they really worked to make sure they have facilities for employees to feel safe and secure and do their job and be well prepared whether that’s locker rooms, bathrooms or sleeping quarters – adding it really is set up really nice to be a great employer and make sure firefighters have what they need to respond to alarms.

O’Brian said they did have some pretty significant delays, mostly related to electrical equipment, and despite those it was good to see everything come to fruition. He commented all of their subcontractors on the project - a good portion of which were from Livingston County – and said it was kind of neat to see the pride people from the area had working on the project.

The budget was roughly $4.5 (m) million and O’Brian says the project will come in under budget – again commending all of their partners for their work and suggestions to help keep costs down.

O’Brian highlighted that this is also the first fire station where the Authority owns everything including the building and property. He said it’s been exciting and a pretty proud moment to see the project go from an empty field to an occupied fire station that will serve the community for years to come.

A grand opening event will be scheduled for the public within the next month or so.

O’Brian noted their 12-year capital plan was really to make sure they maintain the buildings they have and upgrade where needed. He said the majority of their stations were set up for predominately paid on-call response and like many departments in the region, they’re having more and more people on duty and they need space to do their job.

A new Dorr Road station in Genoa Township was completed two years ago and funded by the millage.

The next big project – and likely the most challenging - will be the Authority’s headquarters building on Grand River.

O’Brian says they’ll be evaluating options over the next six months that include finding a new site or renovating the current facility - which is at capacity. He noted the building is also hitting a very unique age having opened in 1989 and there are various issues, and the windows and roof leak. O’Brian said they also need make sure that staff has space they need as the Authority is drastically different from when the building opened. He said back then, they were probably under 300 runs a year. In 2022, they were around 2,600 incident responses. A lot has also changed with rig size, crew demographics, and crew size.

O’Brian said anytime they look at making an investment of taxpayer dollars, they spend a lot of time to make sure the station is placed in the right spot to get to the most incidents as fast as they can. He noted there’s not a lot of open property where they need the station to be in the City and need to make sure they’re putting it in the right spot to make sure they’re not hurting their response times and can achieve their set goals for response.

O’Brian said they’ll be looking at everything, along with the price of construction, and how much space they need not just for today but the future. He said they’ve actually been working on the project over the course of five or six years and evaluating locations while studying response times and looking at funding – noting it is a lot of work to evaluate sites to meet all of their different needs. O’Brian said hopefully in the next six months, they’ll have a better plan as to what their next steps will be.