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Lawton's Central Fire Station facing decades of wear

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LAWTON, Okla._For the past several weeks, the crew at Lawton's Central Fire Station has noticed a growing number of cracks on their floors and driveway. 

They even said they can see the driveway flex when their trucks roll over it and that raised concerns that there might even be a sinkhole developing. So, the city hired an outside company to come in and find out exactly what's going on underneath Lawton's oldest fire station.

The fire station was built back in 1939, when a horse-drawn carriage served as a fire truck, but the fire engines they use now weigh 20 tons or more. Now there are cracks and splits in the ground where their driveway has been seen flexing under all of the weight.

During the recent snow storms, Deputy Fire Chief Raanon Adams said these problems came to light, while the trucks were being cleaned inside, "Normally the guys are able to wash them out but when they went to clean them this time the drains were plugged. The guys tried to clean them out and they won't clean out, there was water literally coming up through the cracks in the floor, so that's what got the process started."

The company they used to investigate the problem used a ground penetrating radar to search for any massive voids below the station. Luckily for the fire department, they did not find any. At this point, it appears the cracks are due to simple wear and tear over time. Adams said they already knew that the concrete slab did not have steel reinforcement due to the time period it was built.

Adams also said they recently found out that the driveway isn't compliant with the American Disabilities Act and the ladder truck barely has enough clearance to make it into the station, "During the storm, the driver was smart enough to catch and made a good call that the snow was built up and they had to shovel the driveway to ensure the truck could get out without hitting the door frame."

These problems won't affect their ability to do their job effectively and that they will just get by with what they have. "The reason this building has lasted 84 years is credit to the guys and the maintenance they do on the building to keep it in a good state of repair," said Adams.

The company didn't seem to think their problems were severe, but once the department receives the report and find out for sure then city council will decide what the next step will be. The city already has roughly $4 million set aside from a previous capital improvements program that is earmarked for renovations at that particular fire station and a new fire station in southwest Lawton. 

City officials are still trying to determine how that money might be used for repairs and the impact it would have on the renovation plans.

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