Excellence in Modern Fire-Station Design

Excellence in Modern Fire-Station Design

Fairfax City’s Fire Station 33 receives national award.

Fairfax City’s award-winning Fire Station 33 fronts on Fairfax Boulevard.

Fairfax City’s award-winning Fire Station 33 fronts on Fairfax Boulevard.

Not only is Fairfax City’s Fire Station 33 a modern, state-of-the-art facility, it’s also an award-winning one. And Fire Chief John O’Neal received that honor, on behalf of the Fire Department, at the Fairfax City Council’s Jan. 10 meeting.

Introducing the presentation, City Mayor Catherine Read said, “Firehouse magazine is a national publication focusing on fire and rescue services. Each year, it organizes the Firehouse Station Design Awards to celebrate the best new fire stations in the country. And City of Fairfax Fire Station 33 was selected for recognition as one of the top fire stations for 2022.”

Christopher Kehde, principal/managing director with FMG Architects, then gave O’Neal a plaque acknowledging Station 33 as the national Gold Award winner for its design. “I had the distinct honor of being the principal architect for Station 33,” said Kehde. “We had an exemplary project team, including City leadership, Fire Department representatives, the contractor and the design team.”

From left are Catherine Read, Battalion Chief Andrea Clark, John O’Neal and Christopher Kehde. (In background is Councilmember Kate Doyle Feingold).  


“How we worked together on this project to realize the City’s vision truly was exceptional in the design and construction industry,” he continued. “It’s my honor to be here this evening to share in this plaque recognizing the success of the collective achievements of that project team.”

Originally built in 1978, the old Station 33 was planned for a single-engine company. But as time passed, its design no longer met the needs of a busy, modern-day fire station. At just 7,800 square feet, the building lacked the space to adequately store equipment, and its ready-reserve apparatus had to be housed off-site. 

Besides rectifying these problems by constructing a nearly 21,000-square-foot facility, the new station increased the Fire Department’s operational readiness. Equally significant, it improved the safety, health conditions and quality of life for the Station 33 staff. 

Thanks to a state-of-the-art decontamination area, firefighters are now able to keep their dirty gear out of the living spaces, so they’re not exposed to toxic substances. In addition, having the latest in hot-zone design principles and modern, vehicle-exhaust systems there also helps limit their exposure to carcinogens.

The new building features a secure vestibule and three engine bays, instead of two, like the former station. It also has a much larger support area, a spacious control room and 25 parking spaces. The second floor has administrative spaces, three offices and a conference room, plus a training area. The third floor houses the dining and kitchen areas, plus bunks for 14 people.

The station’s groundbreaking was Nov. 16, 2019. And despite the following year’s pandemic, construction was able to proceed, with the official grand opening on Oct. 16, 2021.

During the recent award ceremony at the City Council meeting, Kehde said he’d spoken with Janet Wilmot, who organizes the Firehouse Station Design Awards each year. “She noted the [magazine’s] selection committee was unanimous in its selection of Station 33 for its highest award,” he said.

Kehde explained the committee believed that “Station 33 set the bar for excellence in modern, fire-station design through its inclusion of key design concepts such as hot-zone design – to protect firefighters from contaminant exposure – and immersive design that helps support and protect mental and behavioral health.” He said the committee was also impressed with the station’s “onsite practical training to support operational readiness, and gender-neutral bunks and lockers that accommodate the changing firefighter demographics.”

Kehde then said it was his honor and privilege to present the plaque recognizing City of Fairfax Fire Station 33 as a design Gold Award winner, Thanking him, Chief O’Neal said this achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the work of a great team, starting with the mayor and City Council – current and past, the support of the professional staff and “the great team that Christopher and our general contractor, Whitener and Jackson, brought to the table with a quality project.”

O’Neal then recognized the City’s overall project manager, Rick Thoesen, for all his hard work in making the new station a reality, as well as fire Capt. John Jeniec, who served as the internal project manager for the Fire Department. “They did a great job,” said O’Neal. “So thank you, everybody, for all your support.”