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11 super-cool fire stations

By: Matt Hickman on April 5, 2016, 1:15 p.m.
Parque de Bombas, Ponce, Puerto Rico

Photo: Jose DeJesus/flickr

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5-alarm architecture

Big red doors. A tower for drying hoses. Alarm bells. The requisite brass slide pole. (Well, not-so-requisite these days.) Maybe a Dalmatian loitering around out front. Every community has a building with one of these features. But how many communities have fire stations that are architecturally significant landmarks?

As it turns out, more than you might think.

Like other civic buildings, fire stations are often overlooked, cast off as unimaginative, utilitarian structures — basically oversized garages with dormitories up top — that could be erected in Tucson or Tacoma — it doesn't really matter what they look like so long as they're functional. Yet for every humdrum firehouse, there's one that's beautiful, daring and different — a well-oiled, thoughtfully designed emergency response machine that's reflective of the community it serves. A building that stands both as an architectural showstopper and a source of civic pride.

We've rounded up some examples of impressive firehouses — like the Parque de Bombas in Ponce, Puerto Rico (pictured) — from across the globe. Some are historic landmarks dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries; some are contemporary stunners with avant-garde flair; a couple are designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects; one was designed by undergraduate students; and one may or may not have a ghost containment area in the basement. No matter their size or age, all are fine examples of five-alarm architecture.