The El Paso Fire Department has created an educational and welcoming environment through their Safety and Health Outreach Center, SHOC for short.
The SHOC is located in the Central part of town, at 5415 Trowbridge Drive.
First established in 1953 as Fire Station No. 13, The building was an active fire station for over 60 years until 2014 when the station ceased operations and merged with the newly built Fire Station No. 5 at 400 Revere St. in Central El Paso.
“The city realized that the value that this venue plays to the residents in the area was really important,” said El Paso Fire Department Lieutenant James Schaerfl. “It was a good tactical move for us to do that because we can get to freeway responses quicker”
“We didn’t want to lose this foothold in the community, so the residents in the area expressed concern that they were going to lose their fire station,” Schaerfl added. “The department had the foresight to make sure we didn’t lose this facility.”
Schaerfl said the building “was repurposed to be that external arm of the fire department where we meet the public where they’re at.”
Lack of public venues was another incentive to keep the old building operational, even if it was not a working fire station.
The SHOC is now used as a point of contact with the media for press conferences and interviews covering seasonal specific fire safety concerns. The public is also welcome to visit and tour the building.
“It’s a one-off, the only one in the country,” said Schaerfl. The fire truck on display was produced by Pierce, which provides much of the equipment for the EPFD. The Pierce fire truck was created to give kids an opportunity to be exposed to what it feels like to be inside a real fire truck.
As part of its community outreach, SHOC also offers a Vaccinations for Health program that provides free flu vaccinations to residents 18 years or older who lack health insurance or are on Medicaid.
City Council representatives sometimes use the facility for meetings with the public.
Modernization efforts are underway at the SHOC in the near future. New interactive screens are expected to replace current informative signs regarding fire safety at the SHOC to make the learning experience better for all, according to Schaerfl.
QR codes for cell phones are also expected to be a part of the SHOC to make fire safety education a mobile experience, as a majority of children and adults have cell phones that can take advantage of the technology.
In addition to the fire truck, fire gear, uniforms and boots are on display to inform and educate the public on fire safety.
The facility also contains a working kitchen, a fire place, a shower, a dryer and water heater to show visitors how to handle them properly to avoid fires. The building is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
“From time to time I take the bus, and while I wait, I have seen the old fire station hosting their vaccinations program, and I also hear about it in the news, but I have never really gone. I do get curious when I see the lines that form outside the station,” said Central El Paso resident Lupe Martinez, 57.
UTEP student Kevin Torres, 21, says he drives by the building on his way to campus. “I’ve always been curious to know how it looks inside, but I mean I feel intimidated just showing up like that,” Torres said.
He added that he is interested in learning more about fire safety “because we should always be prepared in case something happens. Just because it doesn’t happen to us doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be well-informed.”
Even with its long history as a fire station, the SHOC is not a historical building because it is only 65 years old.
“I don’t think it should be, and it could really hurt us in the long run, because it would limit what we would be able to do out of it,” said Schaerfl.
“If we wanted to offer a better training environment then we would be really confined to use a facility under the guidelines of a historic building.”
The building also contains artifacts that were previously on display at the now-defunct Insights Museum in Downtown El Paso. The fire truck pump panel was moved to the SHOC to teach children about the math that goes behind fire safety.
The goals of the SHOC is to extend fire safety education to children so when they grow up they adopt the safety practices and pass them on to their children.
According to Schaerfl, the SHOC will be a one-of-a-kind for the foreseeable future in El Paso. Currently, there are 35 fire stations in the city of El Paso, including an Airport station, but more are expected to be built in the future to keep up with demands from growing communities in Far East and Far West El Paso.
Although the Fire Department welcomes all visitors, there is a chance that the SHOC may be unavailable during periods with no scheduled events. If you wish to participate in a class on fire prevention or host a group class, please contact the FPD through this link. When filling out the form, select the Fire Prevention Program and Fire Safety Class at the Safety Health Outreach Center options.
For more information on Fire Prevention please visit the Fire Department website or contact the SHOC at (915) 564-5362. People in need of emergency assistance should contact 911