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Every homeowner likes to know there is a fire station nearby, in case of an emergency. Now, several new masonry fire stations in suburban Las Vegas are making safety even more attractive.

Fire Station #66 is the first of four facilities planned throughout Clark County, Nev. To achieve the station's design goals, its architects looked for building materials that reflected the ideal qualities of a public safety facility: functional, durable, and visually pleasing. They chose the earthy and substantial look of Monterrey Stone-colored ground face concrete block, with lighter colored cast stone decorative bands.

Henderson Masonry, Henderson, Nev., was chosen as the masonry contractor, while its sister company, CG&B Enterprises, was selected to serve as general contractor. Henderson's team of 12 masons worked for three months to complete the 12,000-sq-ft, $5.4 million project.

It was important for this public facility to fit the scale and style of its surrounding community. Fire Station #66 sits at the edge of a park, within a larger residential area. Masonry was an obvious choice since concrete block is common in the Las Vegas area and blends with the desert environment.

“The CMU fits in well with the regional architecture, and yet sets the station apart from other public and private facilities in the area,” says Shaun Yauch, director of regional operations for BJG Architecture + Engineering, Henderson, Nev.

But even more important than aesthetics, a fire station must be designed to keep emergency response times to a minimum. Load-bearing masonry walls at Fire Station #66 allow for the flexibility of available space by eliminating the need for interior columns. A 12-in. shear wall runs from front-to-back, starting outside the building and continuing two-thirds of the way into the station's interior. The exposed block wall goes along the entry hallway and Fire Prevention Training Room, and supports the station's roof.

The remaining Clark County fire stations will include similar ground face block and cast stone banding in a blend of colors and textures that will complement the native landscape. “Each station will respond to the visual cues of its neighborhood, but all will have the same masonry components,” says Yauch.

Around the top of the apparatus room, clerestory windows let in plenty of natural light. Since the window frame also supports the roof, masons pinned the cast stone blocks together, and anchored them to the top of the wall with pins and grout.

Although the fire station has to operate as a fine-tuned machine, it also serves as a home-away-from-home for firefighters. For those who spend long shifts within its walls, the masonry provides a clean, no-frills working environment, while its ground face and color are warm and inviting.

Room for improvement

As the prototype for Clark County's new stations, #66 gave designers and contractors the opportunity to make improvements for those that will follow. Originally, the plans called for a solid piece of concrete to be used for the light-colored bands and top wall element.

This arrangement posed a problem for placing structural steel and grout. Henderson's masons suggested using a smaller block insert of the same material to achieve the desired look and maintain structural integrity.

Designers also made changes to the mortar joints for future stations, after realizing the treatment of the head and bed joints can dramatically change the masonry's appearance. On future stations, they will ask the contractor to rake the bed joints and flush the head joints to further enhance the building's horizontal design elements.