Fire station #21 was built in 1964 and is the largest station in the city. It has 4 full bays and contains 14,938 square feet. Station #21 is a three level station with the apparatus room and an office on the ground floor. Sleeping quarters, living area and kitchen are on the second floor. The third level of the station is below the ground and serves as the fallout shelter. This is one of four stations remaining with a pole for firefighters to descend from the second floor to the apparatus room.
Station #21 houses a very specialized group of firefighters and equipment. The apparatus from this station answers only fire alarms on the airport grounds of Dallas Love Field and are designed for fighting aviation fires. If an airport building is on fire, companies arrive with the appropriate equipment for structure fires. Station #21 and its apparatus are quipped with radios for immediate contact with the Love Field Control Tower during an "alert."
The apparatus at Station #21 are designated "Red 1," "Red 2," "Red 3," and "Red 4." Red 2 is the largest firefighting apparatus owned by the Department, at 14 foot 2 inches in height, 51 feet in length and 11 foot 6 inches wide, with 7,000 gallons of water and 700 gallons of AFFF. Red 2's weight is only an estimate at 125,000 to 140,000 pounds since the DFD cannot find a scale large enough to weigh the apparatus.
Since Love Field is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, this agency has strict guidelines for apparatus response times. During a drill, the first arriving company must be on location within two minutes. All other incoming apparatus must arrive within three minutes.
Station #21 firefighters also have special firefighting gear. Instead of the usual bunkers, boots, coat and helmet, firefighters wear special suits made of Nomex designed to protect them from exposure hazards occurring in aviation fires. These silver suits make DFD personnel look more like "astronauts" than firefighters.
Although there has not been a major fire due to an aircraft crash at Love Field in many years, Station #21 responds to 10 to 12 "alerts" per month. The present Station #21, which opened in 1964, is the third fire station designated with number 21. The first Station #21, built in 1924, was located at Jamaica and Cross Streets in South Dallas (near the present Station #44) and was closed during the Depression. The second Station #21 was located at Love Field although not situated on the airfield as is today's station. The exterior of the second Station #21 caused it to be appropriately nicknamed "The Barn."
When Station #21 was built, Love Field was Dallas' commercial airport. DFW International Airport was not in existence. Despite the large number of people passing through the airport, there was only one restaurant in the airport terminal. Airport personnel began dropping by the station between flights and bought sandwiches, drinks and cookies while enjoying a chat with the firefighters. Before long, some firefighter entrepreneurs made Station #21 the second "restaurant" at Love Field. Station #21 was the only DFD station to pay taxes on "house profits!" After a while it was "suggested" Station #21 leave the fast food business to others. The firefighters still are available for a chat, however.
Station #21 also houses the restored "Bonehead Truck," which involves regular maintenance by all three shifts. This truck is a Peter Pirsch 100 foot tillered aerial, whose restoration cost was paid by the Bonehead Club.
The Bonehead Club of Dallas is an exclusive group of grown men dedicated to carrying out harmless exercises of foolishness. Number 57 is their "password." (Club membership is limited to 57. Their rationale: H.J. Heinz Company has 57 varieties of pickles, the club has 57 varieties of nuts.)
For years, the Dallas Boneheads have used a DFD tractor-trailer truck for transporting members to the State Fair of Texas on the day before it officially opens to close the Fair. (Their rationale: How can you open something if it isn't closed first?)
When the DFD put the last tractor-trailer truck out of service in August 1975, the Boneheads asked to restore it. They spent hundreds of hours refurbishing the truck and dubbing it-what else but "57 Extra."
Department personnel usually drive the Bonehead truck (a tillerman is needed) in parades, such as the downtown Dallas celebration to honor the 1984 USA Summer Olympic winners, at the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony on City Hall plaza, and, of course, for the pre-opening closing of the State Fair of Texas.