A new fire station worth over $2.9 million opened on Sept. 22 in Gainesville.
Alachua County Fire Rescue revealed Fire Station No. 33, which is located at 5901 NW 34th Blvd. and spans 7,754 square feet. Retired workers were invited back to celebrate the accomplishment. Among them, Rodger Mallard said he worked out of this location as a paramedic over 30 years ago.
“It’s a lot of history because on this property is where one of our original buildings were,” Mallard said. “We ran calls out of here for years.”
The old building was torn down in 2016 after a severe mold problem. Alachua County Fire Rescue Chief William Northcutt said the original building was unsafe for people.
“It was an old building and over the years it just developed mold that we couldn’t get rid of, and we had to tear the building down,” Northcutt said.
Fire and rescue crew members were operating from a temporary warehouse during construction.
“Before the new building, we had this modular building and many of the first responder rescue unit vehicles were outside to the elements,” Alachua County Commission Chair Ken Cornell said. “The new station provides a safe place for the vehicles.”
Northcutt said he hopes the fire station will meet the needs of the community.
“This station is designed for growth. Very often we build facilities that meet our needs just for today,” Northcutt said. “This one will actually allow us to grow into it at least for a couple of years before it exceeds our capacity.”
Building features include a backup generated power facility, energy efficient equipment, an on-demand tankless water heater system, and a processing certification under the Green Globe Standard.
“It’s energy efficient, it has got a lot of the particular engineering and design so that it’s an energy-friendly building,” Northcutt said.
The station, Northcutt said, can withstand a Category 3 hurricane.
“[The new station] will allow us to occupy this area during storms and this is gonna allow us to expand with the numbers of ambulances,” Northcutt said.
The station houses eight rescue crew members on rotating shifts, plus two more available as a 24-hour rescue team. In November, Fire Station No. 33 will be equipped with six ambulances. However, the housing bay can fit up to eight ambulances.
Retired paramedic Kevin Rolfe said when he worked in 1975, there were only three ambulances. He said the comfort of the new facility will improve the firefighter’s performance.
“It improves our response time. So it improves the comfort of the crews between calls and gives them an opportunity to have more of a homelike environment,” Rolfe said. “A lot of times we spend more time with our partners in the fire station than we spend with our families.”
Rolfe said rebuilding the fire station is a great commitment from the county.
“Somehow when things are temporary it can be taken away just as quickly,” Rolfe said. “It’s more difficult to get rid of a fixed facility so I think it’s a lot more security for the citizens.”
Cornell said this station fulfills a promise that was made to the community.
“It’s a 2.9 million project and it will provide for the rescue and first responder units in the facility,” Cornell said.
In 2004, Alachua County Fire Rescue created a fire rescue master plan that was updated in 2012, which talks about where the next stations will be deployed.
“This was in that original plan,” Cornell said. “It’s been a long time coming, but it’s now finally here.”