Public tours offer look at the latest Wilmington fire station

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The Wilmington Fire Department's newly built Station 3 is open for tours this Saturday. Photos by Christina Haley.
The Wilmington Fire Department’s newly built Station 3 is open for tours this Saturday. Photos by Christina Haley.

The community will have the chance to get a tour of Wilmington’s newest fire station this weekend.

City of Wilmington officials and members of the fire department are hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Station 3 located off Cinema Drive this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. The event is free and open to the public, and includes entertainment, refreshments and station tours. Parking at the station is limited, so guests are asked to park in the Carmike 16 movie theater parking lot across the street.

The $3.4 million fire station went into operation this week. The Cinema Drive fire station is replacing two older fire stations in the surrounding community; the old Station 3, located at 3933 Princess Place Drive and Station 4 at 310 Wallace Ave.

The new 14,000 square-foot construction is part of the city’s development plan to reduce the number of fire stations from 11 to nine, according to the City of Wilmington. Wilmington City Council awarded a design contract of more than $384,000 to Becker Morgan Group at their Nov. 17 meeting for the design of the new Station 5, which will eventually replace the existing Station 5 on Wellington Avenue and Station 6 off Carolina Beach Road.

Wilmington Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Frank Blackley, who helped in the design of the new Station 3, said the two new constructions will not only improve the fire department’s efficacy and response, but will save the city millions.

“Instead of having the city spend three or four million dollars for four stations apiece, were only going to have to spend three or four million on two stations. So we are saving about $8 million in capital costs for the tax payers by making these changes,” Blackley said.

Assistant Fire Chief Frank Blackley helped in the design of the new Station 3 building, which is now in operation.
Assistant Fire Chief Frank Blackley helped in the design of the new Station 3 building, which is now in operation.

The construction was necessary for fire department improvements and for the building to meet current development needs and construction requirements.

“The buildings that the new fire station is replacing did not meet current ADA requirements for access…that’s probably one of the bigger reasons there,” Blackley said about the need for replacing the older stations.

The fire department is able to convert a fire engine unit into a ladder truck unit. Redeployed personnel are moving into a truck company that consists of a fire truck with a 100-foot ladder. The transfer will up the city’s ladder trucks from two to three. That crew is now running in Station 8 off Eastwood Road, Blackley said.

“When we build the next station, over on Shipyard Boulevard…we will also do the same thing. We will create another ladder company from an engine company. So we will eventually have four ladder companies that will be reaching the four corners of the city for response,” Blackley said.  “Insurance Service Organizations, that grade fire departments…they want to have a ladder truck on a certain number miles for at least every three story building that’s in the city. So, this helps us meet those requirements.”

Firefighters from the old Station 3 on Princess Place Drive will move into the new fire station off Cinema Drive. The construction of Station 3 includes all the normal features of any fire station building – restrooms, showers, bunks and a lounge area. But the bunk rooms for the firefighters are just feet away from the loading bay with a hall that leads directly to it.

“Basically we were looking for something that is functional. One of the key things that we want to make sure…is that when the firefighters are asleep at night, they have quick access to where the trucks are parked. That was one of the big things obviously from a response standpoint that we wanted to do,” Blackley said. “Also, trying to add a community room to the building that would not just be for the firefighters, but be able to be used by the public if they wanted to have some kind of a meeting here.”

The community room is a new feature of Station 3 that was not in any of the existing buildings.
The community room is a new feature of Station 3 that was not in any of the existing buildings.

The community room for  both meetings and fire department training was included in the fire station’s construction, along with additional features such as a large workout facility, a kitchen with ADA accessible sinks and emergency shutoff for all kitchen appliances for a quick response.

Blackley said it’s department policy for each firefighter to have an one-hour work out each shift. The exercise room is one of the larger workout rooms for the fire department, with everything from weights to cardio equipment.

“What we have found is that when people are more physically fit, our number of injuries have decreased,” Blackley said. “Typically we have to fight in hazardous environments and if we can stay physically fit, from our heart…or we’re limber enough, it helps us reduce injuries.”

Other features have been added to ensure efficiency and save the city costs in the long-term, Blackley said. The loading bay of Station 3 has a solar-powered water heating system that runs through the concrete floor, and also provides heating for the water in the station’s restrooms. The loading bay also includes new powered sliding doors that outlast normal station garage doors, he added. The loading area at the fire station has four loading bays, while most fire stations in the city have just two or three.

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