It’s been a year in the making, but the DeLand Fire Department’s new fire station, Fire Station 81, is set to open its doors for regular operations Tuesday, Jan. 18. The new station, at 343 W. Howry Ave., will replace the current fire station at 201 W. Howry Ave.
So what’s new about the city’s newest fire station?
Bigger and better
The new Fire Station 81 is 16,000 square feet, an improvement over the old Fire Station 81, which totaled around 9,000 square feet. The new station cost around $5.5 million, DeLand Fire Chief Todd Allen said, and the former fire station will eventually be torn down to make room for a public parking lot.
With more space comes better consolidation of the Fire Department, Allen said. While various elements of the Fire Department were spread across various buildings, the newly constructed Fire Station 81 will serve as a home base for the department with more space for meetings.
The DeLand Fire Marshal, for one, has space in the new building, whereas he used to be based at DeLand City Hall due to a lack of space at the previous fire station.
Room for growth
Relocation to a new fire station was necessitated by a desire to bring in all kinds of new tech and facilities, but also to have more room for growth.
“It has to support us for the next 50 to 100 years,” Allen said.
Not only will the larger station facilitate staffing for a growing DeLand, but an unoccupied office sits waiting for a deputy fire chief, a position that the city has currently frozen, but plans to have room for in the future.
Of the 60-person staff at the DeLand Fire Department, five are women. In total, of the 54 uniformed firefighters, 4 are women.
But the old Fire Station 81 was not really built with even one woman in mind. The new station has multiple bathrooms instead of one large bathroom and dorms to facilitate men and women.
Community and training rooms
When DeLand’s firefighters wanted to hold training sessions, Allen said, they were often forced to move over to the police station. The new Fire Station 81 has built-in training rooms, as well as community rooms members of the public will be able to rent out.
Medical station right inside
Fire Station 81 is stocked with a medical station right inside its public entrance to help people who come to the station in need of immediate help.
“We kind of made do at the old station,” Allen said. Making do meant sometimes performing medical evaluations wherever there was space, but with a dedicated space, people who come to the fire station for help can get much easier assistance.
Firefighters in mind
A big focus in building the new station, Allen said, was the health and safety of the firefighters.
“Firefighters have a 9-percent chance higher than the general public of getting cancer,” he said.
Firefighters also, Allen noted, have a 14-percent higher incidence of death from cancer.
With that in mind, better ventilation systems are built into the new station, filtering the air in rooms where uniforms covered in ash are cleaned, as well as in the garage where diesel fumes spray from the fire engines.
There’s also a dedicated workout station for the Fire Department, complete with weights and treadmills, and a fully kitted-out lounge area and kitchen, which will be complete with custom-made tables from Anna Bananas Home Market in Downtown DeLand.
There was workout gear at the old station, Allen said, but it was placed wherever it could fit and not in a dedicated space.
Built in training props
Training regimens were top-of-mind when building the new fire station. A to-scale manhole cover has been placed on the station’s second floor for firefighters to practice removing manhole covers and rappelling down sewers, and various other training elements are built in and around the station.
A brand-new fire pole
Another exciting element? A fire pole to allow easy access from the second floor to the garage. It’s not just for show — firefighters can respond quickly to calls by taking the pole, rather than the stairs, from the second floor.
Advanced life support-capable
Fire Station 81 is the busiest station in Volusia County, Allen said, and as such, its firefighters need to be trained to handle just about anything.
The station is built to allow firefighters to operate at full “advanced life support” capacity, meaning firefighters have additional training to do paramedic-duties in addition to the typical firefighting.
“It’s going to provide a higher level of service,” Allen said.
Soon, Fire Station 81 will be entirely staffed by advanced life support-trained firefighters.
More space on the way
Outside of the main garage, the DeLand Fire Department already has plans to build an additional reserve garage to store additional equipment and the antique fire engine typically brought out for parades and other events. Construction on the reserve garage is slated to begin this April.
The address is important
The new fire station’s address, 343 W. Howry Ave., is in honor of the 343 New York firefighters who lost their lives in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Another honor to 9/11 is alongside the station — a pear tree from a pear tree near the World Trade Center that survived the building’s collapse.
Want to get a look at the new Fire Station 81 yourself? The City of DeLand is holding a grand-opening ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, at the new Fire Station 81, 343 W. Howry Ave. The grand opening will feature a ribbon-cutting, tours of the building, and remarks from Mayor Bob Apgar, Fire Chief Todd Allen, and Police Chief Jason Umberger.