Lemonade out of lemons

Jesse Abrams-Morley

A trailer at Ryan Field might not seem like the ideal setting for a fire station — but for about a dozen Evanston firefighters, it will have to do for now.

“It’s like being on a fishing trip and renting a cabin that you probably won’t live in again,” said Capt. William Betke of Evanston fire department. “But it’ll work for a while.”

Division Chief Alan Berkowsky led a tour of the new facilities Monday morning. The department is housing a fire engine at Ryan Field while Fire Station No. 3, 1105 Central St., is being rebuilt.

The engine was moved to the stadium about three weeks ago from a temporary location farther west on Central Street.

The trailer where the firefighters work and the garage holding the truck sit just outside the northeast corner of the stadium. The fire department is renting the space from Northwestern for $5,000.

Berkowsky allowed media and City Manager Roger Crum a look inside the trailer Monday. Firefighters Joe Moskal and John Roche, neither of whom work out of the trailer, also were checking out the five-room facility.

“They used to have ants, but they got rid of that now,” Moskal said.

The trailer includes a bathroom, an office and a bedroom with two mattresses and a television. It lacks a workout room and a permanent telephone — both features of their permanent station. The phone will arrive this week, but for now, Berkowsky praised the firefighters for continuing to work in less than ideal conditions.

“It’s not like a fire station,” Berkowsky said. “They have adapted very well.”

Berkowsky’s tour hit a snag when the firefighters on duty — and the engine they use — were called away because of a downed power line near the intersection of Sheridan Road and Clinton Place.

Although Betke’s team monitored traffic in that area, the main advantage of moving into the Ryan Field facilities is response time, which he said has “improved immensely.”

When the firefighters worked out of the other temporary station on Central, their response time averaged about six minutes. Now they usually can get to the scene in half that time.

This is important because the station responds to emergencies on the Evanston Campus, Betke said. Earlier Monday the engine at Ryan Field was called to Slivka Residential College, where a student was sick. An ambulance from another station also came to the scene.

Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th) said that since the fire station opened she feels safer.

“I think that it’s great news for the ward and the city,” she said.

Construction of the new permanent fire station should take about six or seven more months, Berkowsky said. The department is hoping to begin operating there in December or January.

Betke said he hopes to be out of the Ryan Field trailer “before it freezes.”