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Old firehouse getting a new look

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

While most of the work has been on the inside, exterior refinishing is a component of the firehouse overhaul.

Photo by Nick Stubbs

After several weeks of tearing down walls, ripping up flooring and ceiling panels, and lots of scraping paint, new began to replace old. By the start of May, one of the oldest buildings on base will be like new again.

Renovation of the fire station on Florida Keys Avenue is part of a $900,000 project that also is revamping the east side of the building for a new tenant. About a quarter of the building will continue as a base of operations for the Fire Department, supporting the new airfield station scheduled to open by August, said Chief John Warhul.

For several weeks, workers have been working mostly inside the old fire station, built in the early 1940s. Allen Tucker, a mechanical engineer with the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron and project manager of the overhaul, said despite the age of the building, it is solid and well worth remodeling.

"It's built like a tank," said Mr. Tucker. "It used to be the old jail, so it was built very sturdy of concrete and steel."

Mr. Tucker said the project is a bit behind schedule due to several design changes and some issues not uncommon when working with older structures, but that most of the work short of some final painting should be complete by the first of the month.

Chief Warhul said it remains up in the air just who will occupy the space not utilized by the Fire Department but it will not be Explosive Ordinance Disposal as originally planned. After analysis, it was determined there would not be enough room in the building or adequate parking for EOD personnel and equipment.

"Looks like it is going to be the (Army) Corp of Engineers," said Chief Warhul. "It is up to the base commander to approve it but that's who it looks like it is going to be."

In addition to a fresh new look for firefighters, a few new amenities will make life at the station more enjoyable and convenient, like a weight and exercise room. Due to their long shifts, firefighters will be able to keep up on physical training at all hours and without having to leave the station. Additional upgrades to living and sleeping quarters in the building were done with an eye toward a long future, said Chief Warhul, as the fire department will not be able to consolidate into the new airfield station due to DoD requirements regarding response time to all areas of the base.

"The new (flightline) station is going to be too far away to meet the response requirement for base housing and the hospital," he said. "We have to have something closer by and this (the old station) will have to serve."

Chief Warhul said the station will have at least one fire truck and a five-man crew. The new flightline station will be the central hub of the new base Fire Department and the assistant chief currently assigned to the old station will move there once it opens in August, he said. Mr. Tucker said plans also are for the 9-1-1 operation to move from the old station to the new sometime after August.

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