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Fairfax County’s most unique — and expensive — firehouse celebrated its grand opening this past weekend in Great Falls.

The building sets an example for future firehouse construction that combines functionality, environmental friendliness and ample co-ed facilities.

Construction of the $12 million station began in December 2010. The two-story facility replaces the previous station, which was built in 1960 and did not meet county and state fire standards, according to fire officials.

The 18,700 square-foot, drive-through, four-bay Station No. 12 was built with the environment and energy savings as a priority, using recycled glass, heated apparatus bay floors, waterless urinals, earth covered roofs with water-absorbing ground cover and natural lighting.

Its bay floors also have in-slab radiant heat, which officials say minimizes the effect of temperature changes from drafts when the bay doors are opened, saving energy.

The station also has co-ed residential facilities for 18; nine rooms with two bunks each, allowing dedicated bunk rooms for men or women with separate restroom and changing facilities.

“This station is truly unique,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova during the March 10 event. “There is not another firehouse like this in Fairfax County. It is truly magnificent.”

The station boasts unique steel bay doors that are bi-folding and can be moved manually — a first of its kind in the county. The facility was constructed to be able achieve LEED Silver certification, which is pending.

The uniqueness of the station was constructed to meet the equally unique requirements of its personnel.

“Because of its proximity to Great Falls Park and the Potomac River, all the firefighters at Station No. 12 are trained in swift-water rescue,” said Fairfax County Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Renee Stilwell. “It is the only station that has that requirement.”

The station was designed with that requirement in mind, and is able to house two swift-water rescue boats without taking up room for other vehicles or equipment. It also has training facilities designed to aid rescuers with rock-climbing and water-related maneuvers.

According to Stilwell, many areas of Great Falls do not have fire hydrants, so the station also has to have the ability to house a water tanker truck that is able to carry 2,500 gallons of water, as well as a fire engine truck that can carry 750 gallons or more.

“In the case of a fire in a non-hydrant area, crews go to the nearest water source and shuttle water in those vehicles,” she said. “As one is being used, another is filling up.”

According to fire officials, the previous station had an antiquated “pump and haul” operation for septic waste. The county purchased an additional acre of land to be able to install a “septic field” eliminating the need to haul away waste.

“In addition to all its innovations, the station is also beautiful and is a magnificent new station that blends in with the rural Great Falls area,” said Dranesville Supervisor John Foust.

“I hope we never need it, but it is great that it was so well conceived,” said Dick Milone of Great Falls, who attended the ceremony.

gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com