There are no fire poles to be found at Round Rock’s newest firehouse west of I-35. That’s because the station at 2721 Sam Bass Road is a former residence.
Roughly 60 days before the station opened, Fire Chief Robert Isbell had the idea to flip a house on city-owned property and turn it into the city’s newest fire station. Round Rock purchased the property in October 2015, thinking it could be used as the future site of a station, but delayed building a new station because of neighborhood concerns of the environmental impact on the surrounding area.
When the Texas Department of Transportation advanced plans to shut down the RM 3406 bridge ahead of schedule, though, the Round Rock Fire Department had to find a solution so 4,000 homes across the bridge would still have access to service.
Isbell proposed the flip, and within two months, the home became a firehouse.
“We basically went gangbusters for 60 days; some of the guys even did the painting themselves,” Isbell said.
Throughout the process, the fire department mitigated the concerns of neighbors by making the station’s environmental footprint virtually nonexistent.
Now that construction is complete, Isbell and station firefighter Tim Kyle said neighbors stop by all the time to extend a warm welcome.
Isbell said the previous owners, the Bradley family, stopped by to see what had happened to the property in the three years since they sold it to the city. They brought photos from their time in the house that now stand as decor on the kitchen shelves in the firehouse.
Besides drawing public intrigue, the firehouse also attracted plenty of interest from firefighters looking to transfer to station No. 9.
Firefighter Trey Houston said the station was opened up to the entire fire department, with only the most senior members getting the new placement.
Kyle said the high demand for the placement came from the firehouse’s refreshing departure from the other stations in Round Rock.
“I like the idea of it being a house,” he said. “It is real homey, with individual bedrooms and a realistic kitchen.”
The station’s unique elements offered benefits to the department. A normal station typically costs upward of $4 million to construct, Isbell said. The home flip cost $250,000 in addition to the cost of the property, which Isbell said was purchased as part of a larger land purchase worth $950,000.
“All the stars were truly in alignment,” Isbell said of the project, which came together quickly with partnerships from multiple city departments.
The flip allowed the RRFD to save bond money for future stations while expanding service delivery. Lt. Nolan Nichols said the station, which was initially thought to be temporary, will likely be in operation for 10 to 15 years.
“It will probably be here for the duration of all three of our careers,” he said, gesturing to firefighters Kyle and Houston.