By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
DANVILLE ? A new station for the Danville Fire Department is long overdue.
After 25 years of Danville firefighters hosting building committee meetings, a new building was finally constructed this summer at 207 N. Elm Street and is expected to be completed in the next month. Enthusiasm for the project was evident Saturday, Sept. 9, during a Danville Fire Department open house as a constant stream of people filed into the building for a pancake breakfast.
?They needed it so badly,? Danville resident Mary Fortin said. ?It?s a great asset to our community and the firefighters deserve it.?
The current station on N. Elm Street was built in the 1950s, with an addition built in the 1970s. Between the fire trucks in the station is just a few feet of space ? enough for one person to squeeze through without firefighter gear on. A small office in the back is the department?s office, meeting room and training space.
It was Bryon Heater, who became fire chief in 2016, who got the ball rolling on the new building. He had finally reached the point where if they were going to build a new fire station, then they needed to do it, and he took his plan to the city council.
In the current building, Heater worries about the safety of his firefighters. The last thing he wants to see happen is someone get run over when a firetruck is pulling in or out of the station. The building itself is inefficient. In the winter, the furnace runs 24/7 because of lack of insulation.
?This building was brand-new when I started,? said Allen Schillie, firefighter with the department for 40 years. Schillie stood in the current station on Saturday, Sept. 8, flipping pancakes for the open house.
?It served us well, we just outgrew it,? he continued. ?We?re cramped for space, there?s no room to expand on this existing building.?
Schillie said the city had the foresight to purchase the land adjacent to the fire department years ago and retain it for just this purpose. The new building, Danville firefighters agreed, would give them more room, a safer work environment, increase efficiency and possibly even attract new recruits.
For newbie Shane Newton, who joined the Danville Fire Department a year ago, knowing a new fire station was underway validated his drive to become a firefighter. ?I was coming into this knowing there would be a lot of great changes,? he said.
?It?s been a long time coming,? Danville firefighter Steve Becker said, who has been with the department since 1993. ?It opens it up for future expansion, for training and equipment.?
The frame for the building went up in only 17 working days. Joyce Becker, Steve?s mother, said that she and her husband Louie went on a five-day vacation this summer as construction got started and when they came back the building appeared almost finished.
The town strongly supports the fire department?s new building, Louie Becker said. Without them, there would be no emergency medical services in the area.
Joyce has witnessed the importance of Danville?s EMS firsthand. Her father had serious seizures, and the Danville Fire Department was always the first on scene. ?I don?t know what we?d do without it,? Joyce said.
The new building not only has plenty of room for Danville?s fire trucks but also has a welcoming lobby, an office for the fire chief, an EMS office to write up confidential reports, two bathrooms with showers, a kitchen and a large meeting room.
The showers are a particularly important aspect of the new building. The last thing a firefighter wants to do after spending hours fighting a fire is bring all those contaminants home, Heater said.
The meeting space will be used often too, with county fire meetings held in Danville three times a year bringing in 25 to 30 people.
The project is funded through local taxes and the Firefighters Association. The bid for the project was $386,000. There are 25 firefighters with the Danville Fire Department. They receive just shy of 200 calls a year.
?We?re grateful to the city, township and community for allowing this building,? Schillie said.