It’s been 40 years since Mount Lemmon established its’ fire station off of Mount Lemmon Road and General Hitchcock Highway.

It was originally built without sleeping quarters, but some were added some two decades ago. Minor upgrades have been made over the years, but nothing large-scale.

Now, the department is preparing for a top-to-bottom makeover to improve not just the amenities but safety measures for staff.

They’ve been working on the design for about five years.

As times change, we also realize that regulation and knowledge change concerning firefighter safety, said John Perchorowicz, chair of the Mt. Lemmon Fire District Board.

Firefighters who’ve served a long time know that wearing a melted helmet and an ash-covered jacket on duty got them more respect it was a way to show that they weren’t rookies.

But that sentiment is changing because they’re realizing that it was actually doing them more harm than good.

We want to keep our guys healthy and cancer free,” said Fire Chief Joe Gunia. “Thats a really big thing right now. Were find out more and more about the process of making the turnouts, the constant exposure to the exhaust from the trucks, the residue from the fires.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, firefighters are 9% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and 14% more likely to die from it compared to the rest of the population.

The renovation plans are designed to protect firefighters from all of that. The entrances and exits of the bays where equipment is stored will have three air locks to keep harmful particles out of common spaces.

Right now, the team has to walk through the bays just to get to the bathroom.

“Theyre getting exposed just going from one room to the other, Gunia explained.

That drove a lot of our thinking about remodeling the station, Perchorowicz added. You wouldnt live in your garage for example.

Kitchen expansion, fresh dorms and a climate-controlled workout space are included in the plans.

The team also made continuing education a priority. At the moment, it’s simply a bookcase next to the living room couch but an entire room will be dedicated to the cause in the end product.

Because Mt. Lemmon is so small, our budget is based off the small community we have,” Gunia noted. “Yet we serve almost two million visitors each year, so we want to be prepared.

Mt. Lemmon Fire received state funding and a federal grant for the project.

They will be presenting everything to the county in two weeks, and once given the green light, they expect the project to take about 18 months.

It’s been a long time coming,” Perchorowicz said. “Were just really pleased to be on the road, as it were, to getting this done.