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A fire station has been operational on Olde Towne Road in James City County since 1980 with a building so small the firefighters could not open the passenger doors on the fire engines parked inside.
All of that is about to change as James City County officials cut the ribbon on the new Fire Station Four, a 12,500-square-foot brick building built at 5312 Olde Towne Road – the same site where the old station once stood.
A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, with speakers and light refreshments. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the station will host an open house with training demonstrations, giveaways and interactive displays.
The department is excited to show off its new building.
“The additional space and more modern construction and training elements integrated into the building has been positive for [the firefighters],” said James City County Interim Fire Chief Ryan Ashe. “This is their home for 24 hours at a time.”
The new station includes ample space for training activities, something that was lacking at the old building. There are ladders, anchor points for repelling, a staircase to practice fighting fires upstairs and a tower for ladder truck practice.
All of those features are new not only to Fire Station Four but to the entire James City County Fire Department, which previously relied on unused buildings at Eastern State Hospital and training sites in Newport News.
“We’ve been limited with areas for hands on training, and those are built into this station so we can rotate crews around to do training,” Ashe said.
The building is also LEED-silver certified, meaning it meets several parameters set forth by the U.S. Green Building Council. Some of those amenities include skylights, fans to reduce loads on cooling units and an efficient heating and cooling system.
Former James City County Fire Chief Tal Luton was assigned to the old Fire Station Four in 1983. He said the building had “minimal facilities,” especially for female firefighters who had to use a bunk room that could sleep at most two firefighters at any one time.
The vehicle bay was small, meaning the truck parked closest to the wall could not open the passenger’s door. To get the door open, the truck would have to pull outside.
“It wasn’t very efficient,” Luton said.
The station opened in 1980, months after Fire Station Three opened on John Tyler Highway. Prior to those two stations coming online, the county relied on the City of Williamsburg’s fire department to respond to incidents in much of the county.
Back then, the station was home to a single fire engine and two firefighters. Now it has a daily staffing of five people, along with an ambulance. It has gone from responding to less than 300 calls per year when it opened to responding to about 3,000 calls per year.
Also new to the station is a large parking lot in the back, where the department is now storing several trailers carrying materials to provide EMS services at major events and disaster-response equipment for mass-casualty situations. The trailers used to be scattered across the county, but now they are located in a more centralized location.
The county built the new fire station at a total cost of $4.06 million, according to county budget documents. Much of the money was allocated between July 2011 and June 2012, when $3.4 million was spent. An additional $669,130 was spent between July 2013 and June 2014.