Although it’s not quite ready to be shown to the public, Pine Bluff’s newest fire station is open for business.
The new Station Three, located at West 32nd Avenue and Beech Street, is currently manned and firefighters are operating out of the station while workmen apply the finishing touches.
The new, three-bay station replaces the single-bay station at West 30th Avenue and Ash Street, which was built in 1952.
“Everything is bigger these days,” said Capt. Harold Clark — the first captain at the new station — as he took a reporter and photographer on a tour of the new facility Wednesday. “The trucks are bigger and taller and we carry a lot more equipment now than we used to.”
Unlike the old station and most of the other stations currently in use, the new Station Three features a rear drive so that fire trucks can be driven directly into the bays from back to front, rather than backing them in as is currently the practice.
Clark said the new setup makes it a lot easier for firefighters on the truck, as well as safer and more convenient for motorists who might be passing through the area.
Unlike the old station, which was set up in an open-barracks style with one restroom, the new Station Three has eight individual rooms set aside as sleeping quarters and features two restrooms.
“When [the old] station was built, firefighters were all men, but now with women in the fire service, we had to make provisions for them,” Clark said.
The hallway from the sleeping quarters leads in a straight line to the bay and the firetruck.
Other features in the bay of the new facility include a room set up to perform decontamination procedures if needed, a second room to store hoses and other equipment and a third which will contain equipment to allow firefighters to refill their air tanks, rather than having to go to the main station at the Civic Center complex to perform that task.
“That is going to be a cost-saving factor,” Clark said. “Not only will we not have to go downtown and burn the extra gas, the other stations (on this side of town) will be able to come here to refill their air tanks and save money on their fuel costs.”
The equipment to refill those tanks is expected to arrive in the next few weeks, Clark said.
The new station also includes a large workout room that will contain weights, treadmills and other exercise equipment. That equipment is also currently on order, and Clark said being physically fit is extremely important for firefighters because of the amount of equipment they have to carry and use in their work.
The lobby of the new station will feature a reception area where people can obtain burn permits, get their blood pressure checked, obtain information and learn about fire prevention programs, among other things.
“We’re going to be able to do the same things they do at the downtown station,” Clark said.
Money to construct the new station, as well as major renovations to two other fire stations in Pine Bluff, came from proceeds of the five-eights cent sales tax and bond issues approved by city voters in February 2011.
“We want to thank the citizens of Pine Bluff and we want to thank the governmental officials who put a high value on public safety,” Clark said. “I can’t put into words how excited I am about this new station. It’s a totally different environment.
“I hate that we had to leave our neighbors (at the old station) but they’re still in our coverage area and frankly, we outgrew the old station.”
A grand opening for the new station is planned in the near future.