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Construction under way at Esko Fire Department

The project will increase safety for volunteers and their families, officials said.

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The Esko Fire Department is located across the street from the Esko school building. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)

A new construction project is in full swing at the Esko Fire Department.

When completed, it will add two individual bathrooms to the building, with a shower in each, as well as 30 lockers and an upgraded sprinkler system, according to project superintendent Ben Nilsen.

There are currently no sprinklers in part of the building. The new system will allow for coverage of the whole building.

Kyle Gustafson, Esko fire chief, said the bathroom and shower renovations will allow volunteers to wash off after structure fires or medical calls before returning to their homes, with the lockers granting them storage space.

The original layout of the building did not include shower spaces or lockers, which Gustafson said wasn’t a real safety concern until recently.

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Two additional bathrooms will be located on the second level in the building. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)

“Nobody considered a pandemic,” he said of the original construction.

The department currently operates with 27 volunteers.

When the department receives a call, volunteers are paged and can choose to respond via an app called “I am Responding.” Those who are available meet at the department and are dispatched to the call from there.

The system means volunteers are not housed at the fire department, but rather come and go from their homes between calls.

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The new lockers, bathrooms and showers will give them a place to clean off before returning home and will allow for increased protection for the volunteers and their families, Gustafson said.

The project is funded by the department and the Thomson Town Board using federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding.

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The construction crew poured concrete into the building Monday, Jan. 25. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)

McGough Construction is heading the operation. According to Nilsen, there are typically up to 10 crew members on-site daily, and the project is progressing smoothly.

The original planning for construction began in October 2020, according to Gustafson, but the physical work did not begin until Monday, Jan. 18.

Gustafson and Nilsen both said progression has been quick, and they hope to have construction completed by March 21.

"It's going really well," Nilsen said.

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Nilsen also works with the Carlton Fire Department, and said he uses that knowledge to manage the construction in a way that does not hinder the department's daily operations.

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Kyle Gustafson (left), Esko fire chief, and Ben Nilsen (right), project superintendent, pose for a photo inside the Esko Fire Department Monday, Jan. 25. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)

So far the project has not impacted response times or volunteer efforts, Gustafson said.

The fire department was founded in 1949 by Esko community members. Prior to acquiring the present station, equipment was housed in spare stalls at the district bus station, according to the Thomson town website .

Today, the department is located in central Esko and works closely with other local departments to ensure adequate response times.

“It’s going to be nice to see it actually come to fruition," Thomson Town Board chair Terry Hill said. “It's a definite positive thing for the community.”

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