Fighting fires in large structures often involves understanding how buildings are constructed, what materials are used, and how large systems like electric, HVAC, gas and water are supplied in the building. It was with that in mind that the West Grove Fire Company took the opportunity to get a look at the new Avon Grove High School under construction in Penn Township near the intersection of Route 796 and Old Baltimore Pike.
With a visit hosted by D'Huy Engineering, the project managers, about 25 firefighters arrived to tour the very large building while walls are still open and to get some perspective on how the structure is being put together. Over the course of about two hours, firefighters toured the building, talking about entrances and exits, looking at engineering spaces, visiting the roof, and walking the building talking about how the WGFC might approach various fire, rescue and EMS scenarios.
No question, this is a large structure: 298,000 square feet under roof, with 56 regular classrooms, and 35 special use classrooms -- like TV/audio labs, science rooms (with gas and chemicals for experiments), to kitchens for teaching home sciences, and wood & metal shops. Everything about the building is large -- from an auditorium that will seat 1,000, to two gyms -- one with seating for 2,000 people.
Firefighters paid particular attention to furnace rooms, large kitchens, wall and roof construction, and to the location of exits and stairwells. WGFC crews will return later this year when the school is nearly complete, taking measurements that will help determine how to approach the deployment of crews, apparatus, and hose lines in case of a fire. The structure is modern -- fully sprinklered, with fire-resistant materials throughout -- yet the contents and life hazards including hundreds of students and staff mean the Fire Company will extensively pre-plan the structure to be ready for nearly any emergency.
WGFC is thankful to the team at D'Huy Engineering for hosting the visit. An army of construction personnel are working to complete the structure by summer, with the first students and staff arriving for the fall 2022 semester in August this year.