TAMPA, Fla — This week, Hillsborough County set aside $18 million to replace three aging fire stations - each nearly a half a century old. That money is coming from the American Rescue Plan.
Chief Dennis Jones says that’s not just good news for the public, but for the firefighters who work at those stations as well.
When many of Hillsborough’s aging fire stations were designed more than 50 years ago, they were considered state of the art. But, a lot has changed since then.
The new firehouses will be designed not only to improve response time but also to protect those who protect us.
“It would’ve taken us years to get this done,” said Chief Jones. “And we have several stations that are in the 50 years plus age. We try to rebuild one a year, and this is going to accelerate that doing three right away.”
The three stations slated for replacement are Station 10 in Armdale, Station 13 on Gunn Highway, and station 15 in Palm River. Each of those stations has reached the end of its practical operation life of about 50 years.
The new fire stations will be designed to handle more apparatus, reducing response time for the public, and configured in a way to protect firefighters too.
In recent years, there’s been a disturbing correlation between firefighting and certain cancers.
The new construction design is meant to address that by creating clean fire stations and keeping carcinogens away from firefighters' living areas.
“You isolate the de-con area from the rest of the station,” said Chief Jones. “So, you have a hot zone, a warm zone, and a cold zone. And it’s created by the design of the station.”
Chief Jones says another important improvement is that the new firehouses are all designed with bay entrances in the front and rear. That way they can handle larger trucks and don’t have to worry about backing them into the firehouse each time they return from a call.
The county, says Chief Jones, is still far behind the growth rate of the region. They need about 22 new firehouses, he says, and 10 more need a similar facelift.
But, getting three new stations over the next two years, where they would normally only get one, is a huge help.
“The more units that you can get on the field, the shorter the wait time is for the next one,” said Chief Jones. “And we get them closer to your home.”
To qualify for the American rescue plan money, Hillsborough County has to have all of its ducks in a row by the end of 2024.
Their hope is to work ahead of that schedule and have the new firehouses either under construction or perhaps even completed by then.