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Gender equality accommodations coming soon to Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department buildings

shane blaser

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, WI (WSAU/WAOW) — There’s a long-awaited and much-needed update that will be coming to the Wisconsin Rapids fire stations this year.

Separate changing and bathroom facilities for male and female firefighters.

Mayor Shane Blaser says the updates have been long overdue, even dating back to his days on the City Council. “Myself and another Councilperson started talking about how we have gender inequality in our fire department, and that’s just the nature of the organization from times past. But, that’s no longer the case now.

“In my opinion it was unacceptable,” he added. “So we are tackling that. Our fire department and their staff have been working on this with consultants.”

So that means both the east and west end fire stations will soon see an upgrade to allow male and female members of the crew to change separately and have individual sleeping areas.

For the west end station, the upgrades will only involve a reconfiguration of the current indoor space. The east end station will be remodeled from the outside to create a bigger footprint for the building.

“[It’ll go to] more of dorm-style sleeping quarters. Right now they have more of an open concept with some divider walls that go to the ceiling and then a locker room facility.

The upgrades will also include safety measures to allow safety gear to be cleaned away from the living areas to reduce exposure to dangerous smoke and carcinogens. He says that’s just as important for the firefighters as having adequate accommodations for them when they are on duty.

“They are in a situation where they are exposed to hazards so if we can help to protect them in that process, I think we have an obligation to do so.”

Not to mention having upgraded or newer facilities can also be a draw for potential employees as the city looks to fill out its roster of firefighters. Blaser adds that he often jokes that he will be satisfied if he can “take away other cities’ good employees.”

The upgrades remain in the planning stages so Blaser says they don’t have a cost pinned down just yet. The city council will hear more information about the projects at an upcoming meeting. He says they would like to have the projects done this summer if possible, though an exact timeline is unknown at this time.

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