Communities in greater Portland have long histories of firefighting operations. Portland is one of the oldest departments in America, establishing the first engine company in 1768. Many stations in the area were designed as large open spaces that didn’t accommodate quarters for full time fire personnel, but served other community needs. In some neighborhoods and towns, fire stations have served as voting stations or town offices, functioning as the civic heart of their communities.
Most fire stations in greater Portland were built during a different age of firefighting. Consolidation, changes in firefighting technology, and a need for accommodations for staff are challenges threatening some surviving stations. Many have narrow doors or short bays unable to accommodate new equipment, requiring some departments to close, relocate or demolish stations and build larger buildings.
In South Portland the fire station at 360 Main St. will be demolished for several reasons: mold, lack of sufficient living space, insufficient bay width and little ability to expand the building to accommodate new equipment. The new replacement station will also result in the closure of the engine house in Thornton Heights (1939).
In Portland, an October 2017 study recommended closing or replacing stations in East Deering (1957), North Deering (1966), Riverton (1971), Rosemont (1951), and Central Station on Congress Street (1924/5). The Bramhall Station on Congress Street (1964) was also recommended for a major remodel or closure.
As the Portland Fire Department approaches its 240th year of service we encourage the department and surrounding communities to look closely at the legacy reflected in our community stations. Already, several Fire Stations have been sold and repurposed into functional commercial space. In Westbrook, Discover Downtown Westbrook recently presented a plan to the city to turn a vacant fire station into an artist space and a visitor’s center. We challenge community leaders to consider alternatives to demolishing these buildings that continue to serve as neighborhood anchors.