In between their regular duties, firefighters at Los Banos Fire Station No. 2 have exchanged water nozzles for hammers and fire helmets for drywall-mud-pans in an effort to improve their sleeping quarters.
"We're constructing separate bedrooms in our dorm area," said Mike Minor. "We eliminated one bed and made separate bedrooms, so this way the guys can have their own rooms and their own downtime at night when they go to bed.
"This way you get your own room and your own locker and if somebody snores, it won't keep the others up -- it's just a lot better."
Firefighters had shared a common bunk area. There are two firefighters on duty on any given night.
Since Jan. 2, they've framed the walls, hung Sheetrock, roughed in electrical sockets and laid vinyl tiles on the concrete floors.
"The department is actually constructing these bedrooms without outside help," Minor said. "This way, it saves the city money and we can do the job ourselves."
Fire Chief Chet Guintini said the supplies cost $2,500.
The project has not been without its inconveniences. Firefighters have opted to sleep on mattresses in a small communal room that normally serves as a kitchen, eating area, TV room and post-call relaxation room.
Firefighters have temporarily moved uniform shirts and other personal gear into the fire-engine bay, where firetrucks and turn-out gear are stored.
"Hopefully, the guys will be in the (new) sleeping quarters and this can be done within the next couple of weeks That's what we're hoping," said Minor.
Numerous Fire Department personnel have contributed to the effort. Assistant Chief Tim Marrison helped with framing and Sheetrock, Chief Chet Guintini built oak-look lockers for the bedrooms, Roger Hughes did main construction, Jacob Toscano helped to "mud" the Sheetrock walls and lay tile and Minor has done staining, Sheetrock prep, and lots of cleaning. Other firefighters have also contributed.
During renovation, firefighters continue to respond to fires and automobile accidents, performing inspections, answer medical pages and helping residents with everything from smoke detector malfunctions to fire station tours.