Estero’s newest fire station designed for training exercises, team-building & top-notch community service
By D. K. Christi
An elevator entrapment, an assault, a fall, a structure fire, abdominal pain – these are the kinds of calls that come into Estero Fire Rescue every day. Incidents may be on the highway, inside a home, at the pool or somewhere in the swamplands. There’s no such thing as a “typical day.”
Firefighters must be ready for the unknown, adept at working in teams and physically fit in order to save lives and property. Estero’s newest fire station on east Corkscrew Road is designed to withstand hurricane-force winds, provide some comforts of home for on-shift firefighters, and serve as a training facility for firefighters and other emergency services personnel.
Design has come a long way from the first all-volunteer Estero Fire Department barn opened along U.S. 41 in 1964. Station 45, opened February 22, 2023, is state-of-the-art in its functional design.
“The Village of Estero has been growing in leaps and bounds,” said Estero Fire Chief Scott Vanderbrook, who has served in that position for 14 years. “Eight years ago, the community and commissioners began planning for a new fire station on east Corkscrew to meet the anticipated demand. A team of community members, firefighters and EMS staff met to determine what was great, and not-so-great, about existing fire stations to plan a new one.”
Station 45 covers the area from Alico Road down to the Lee-Collier county line, extending east along Corkscrew Road to beyond Bella Terra. Estero-based real estate developer Cameratta Companies donated five acres of land for the new station, which will serve the Cameratta communities of Corkscrew Shores, The Preserve at Corkscrew, The Place at Corkscrew and Verdana Village.
“Before, the closest station was approximately seven miles from the eastern communities,” Vanderbrook said.
Today, an Advanced Life Support (ALS)-equipped fire engine and ambulance – purchased by Cameratta – and a brush truck for wildland fires sit in the new bays.
“The existing design is entirely new,” said Vanderbrook. “From the building’s high steel structure withstanding 173-mph wind gusts to the accommodations and the added training facility, it represents the best community collaboration with the talented architects and designers.
“During natural disasters, it will assist other stations that might be incapacitated,” added Vanderbrook.
SchenkelShultz Architecture and civil engineering firm DeLisi Fitzgerald translated Estero Fire’s needs into an efficient design that incorporates the beauty of the surrounding environment and wildlife. A wrap-around porch captures the breezes, as does the mammoth bays with Bahamas fans.
An industrial design is softened with colors and materials inspired by nature, giving a sense of warmth to this gigantic, pragmatic structure designed to reduce maintenance. Daylight streams through the open kitchen and across the round kitchen table that fills with chatter as those on shift “catch a bite.” The fully-fitted kitchen has all the amenities of home – with several extra refrigerators and appliances.
Estero firefighters are dually certified as paramedics, and Station 45 is shared with Lee County EMS. Both units respond to medical calls; ALS medicine can provide patient stabilization similar to an emergency room.
“This station even has a room near the entrance where members of the public can stop to see if their need is sufficient for the emergency room and may be treated on the spot,” said EMT Marcos Munoz, who came from New York.
It’s a valuable service as the communities along east Corkscrew are a distance from local emergency facilities.
The grounds of Station 45 also accommodate many types of training drills for emergency services workers. Rising from the rear of the property are cement-block, one- and two-story buildings, a tower and several steel shipping container “buildings.” Interiors are furnished with cabinets built by the firefighters and furniture donated for the purpose of adding reality to rescue drills that also include an ultra-heavy manikin. Training includes various door, window, stair and roof types.
“Just starting toward a call requires 65 pounds of specialized clothing and tools, so it’s imperative that firefighters be in top physical shape,” said Susan Lindenmuth, Director of Public Affairs, also a trained firefighter and paramedic. “A well-designed weight training room and a great nature running track around the facility help with physical fitness needs.”
Units train together across station boundaries. Since multiple units are often called to an incident, they need to operate seamlessly as a team. Station 45 is a facility for critical cross-training. It’s a life-or-death matter for the rescued and the rescuer.
A sense of humor, outside interests like art and music and healthy lifestyles all contribute to the success of a smooth-functioning emergency response unit. Members of the experienced firefighter team at Station 45 bid by seniority for that location. One recent shift saw Lt. Matt Pagnutti, Engineer Jim Brown and Firefighter-Paramedic Dennis Goodlad at the ready as a three-person engine team for Station 45.
Estero firefighters and EMS personnel come from diverse backgrounds. They include former professional athletes, musicians, teachers and business professionals, as well as legacy firefighters; they are men and women of all ages. One service member even starred in a SlimFast commercial following a significant weight loss.
While they bring diverse experiences, these individuals all have a shared goal – to train with excellence so they are well prepared to save lives in the event of an emergency. According to Lindenmuth, the Estero Fire Rescue team isn’t just a group of colleagues, “It’s an amazing family.”