The Forsyth County Fire Department got the go-ahead recently to move forward with plans to replace two aging stations.
The county commission made official its approval for the department to buy 3 acres on Wallace Tatum Road at Matt Highway for $144,000 for a new Fire Station 3.
The new facility will replace the existing building on Doc Bramblett Road.
The department is buying the land from the county parks and recreation department, which acquired it as part of a larger green space purchase a couple years ago.
The commission also accepted a bid from Lovvorn Construction in an amount not to exceed about $1.25 million to build a new Fire Station 4.
The structure will be on a lot next to the existing station off Canton Highway. The site was once home to Ducktown School.
The new Station 3 is expected to cost about the same amount to build, though a final determination has not been made.
The funding to build both facilities will come from the current 1-cent sales tax program.
Station 4 was built in 1974 and Station 3 was built in 1981.
During a recent tour of the existing stations, Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shivers explained that neither was originally intended to be occupied full time.
He said both facilities have been modified over the years with materials that were either donated or inexpensive in an effort to accommodate equipment and vehicles as well as firefighters.
Neither station is sufficient for housing a crew of more than four firefighters at a time.
Both stations have air scrubbers in the two-bay garages where the vehicles are kept. The scrubbers filter toxins caused by diesel exhaust fumes.
The new facilities will have a ventilation system that Shivers said will clean the air.
Workout equipment is kept in the garages because there is no room in either of the older buildings for exercising.
In both stations, a desk where reports are typed up and other administrative work is performed sits in the same area fire fighters use as a living room during their down time.
In Station 4, modifications were made to provide makeshift sleeping areas upstairs.
Shivers explained the station at one time did not meet modern fire code standards.
“So several years ago we had to do some renovations to make it meet code,” he said.
The renovations include an exit door in a bedroom that opens to a metal landing and stairs on the outside of the building.
“This station has been modified and added on to on at least three different occasions over the years, primarily during the volunteer era,” Shivers said.
Station 3 had similar issues and like Station 4, a door in one of the bedrooms leads to a fire escape. The upstairs level of Station 3 appears more suited as a hayloft than living quarters.
“[Station 3] was never intended to be occupied,” Shivers said. “It was built purely for having a dry location to house fire apparatus.”
He added that when considering buying vehicles to be housed at the older stations, the fire department has had to take size into consideration.
Station 3’s engine squeezes in and out of its bay with mere inches of clearance.
In addition, there’s no room for storage at Station 3, so supplies and other necessities are kept in cabinets in the garage.
The building shakes when the bay doors are opened or closed. Ask the firefighters who work out of that station, and they’ll say it sways with the wind.
Shivers noted that once in its new location, coverage for Station 3 will increase by more than 200 properties.
“They will then fall within five road miles of a fire station,” Shivers said, adding that the change will mean ISO scores of 5 for those properties.
He explained that both new stations will match the new 7,333-square-foot Station 7, which opened in June next to Silver City Elementary School on Dahlonega Highway.
He said the new facilities are expected to last at least 50 years and will be built with room for expansion.
They will have office space with an area for welcoming guests and provide more sleeping areas and privacy for fire fighters.
A groundbreaking ceremony for Station 4 likely will be held later this month.