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Safety, efficiency hallmarks of new HQ for fire department

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Los Alamos Fire Chief Troy Hughes points to safety and efficiency as the biggest benefits to the department’s new headquarters. In early June, the fire department’s administration moved out of its 195 East Road location of the past 19 years to the second floor of the “Radio Shack” building at 999 Central Avenue.

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When they moved into the new digs, Hughes made sure to arrange the administration into work groups that made sense so communication and workflow would be easier and more efficient.

“Just because of the way things were configured before, we might have had a chief on one side of the building, then his direct support person up front or on the opposite side. This created quite a distance between the two people.

“What we’ve done now is create work groups based on departmental divisions,” Hughes said.

The realignment was also easier, since the floor space was pretty much blank canvas. They got to add and create their own office space, which is under a five-year lease.

LAFD evaluated six properties, including the old East Road location. The 7,290-square-foot 999 Central Ave. location came in at the lowest bid of $14,549.63 per month for the base year.

The county council approved the department’s lease on the space last March.

Getting to design their own space also created another advantage, which included the ability to display all of the department’s mementos and awards it has collected through the years. Now when residents and officials come to visit, they can get a clearer understanding of the department and its history just by walking down one of the hallways in the headquarters.

In the old location, the artwork and mementos were pretty much condensed and packed together. One display case that occupies a prominent position shows many of the mementos, souvenirs and photos acquired through the years reflecting on the department’s relationship with its Russian sister city’s fire department in Sarov.

“It really gave us a place to highlight our relationship with Sarov and also highlight the case the historical society owns, which hadn’t really been on public display before, as it was packed away in an office for a number of years,” Hughes said.

The move cost about $30,000, but the department saved money by hiring its own movers and by using some of its own men to help in the move and then in the setting up and arranging of furniture. One of the main reasons they moved was they found that they could save the county more money in the new headquarters, being the new arrangement was more practical and the space more energy-efficient.

There was also a safety and a time issue as well. In their old headquarters Hughes said, the emergency vehicles had to be kept across the street on East Road, because there just wasn’t enough room to park them on the grounds of the East Road headquarters.

Each time there was an incident, firefighters responding to a call had to oftentimes wait for cars to pass before heading across the street, cutting into their response time. At the new headquarters personnel and vehicles all share the same building and parking lot.

“It really made for an unsafe situation, especially around 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. when there was a lot of traffic on the road,” Hughes said.

Deputy Chief Justin Grider echoed the chief’s observation.

“We no longer have to play Frogger trying to get access to our vehicles,” Grider quipped. They also both said being in close proximity to the municipal building has helped too, as far as meetings and appointments with county officials go.

“Our proximity to the municipal building has been the biggest plus, in that it’s helped cut down on our time spent in our dealings with the county,” Grider added.

Even though the building’s parking lot has a large number of emergency vehicles in it now, the administration’s new neighbors don’t seem to mind.

“They’ve been very good neighbors, they do their own thing, they don’t impact us at all,” said Rudy Salazar, who mans the counter at Radio Shack.

“They take their own parking spaces, and stay pretty much where they are designated.”