Fla. fire dept.'s new station will trim response times with door technology

The new 22,000-square-foot Fire Station 1 is equipped with rapid opening doors synchronized to its emergency alarms

By Daniel Smithson
The Gainesville Sun

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In emergencies, it's said that seconds can be the difference between life and death.

Gainesville Fire Rescue's new downtown fire station, which became operational at noon Monday, will use new technology to help firefighters shave seconds off response times and save more lives, said GFR Deputy Chief JoAnne Rice.

Gainesville Fire Rescue's new downtown fire station will use new technology to help responders shave seconds off response times. (Photo/GFR_
Gainesville Fire Rescue's new downtown fire station will use new technology to help responders shave seconds off response times. (Photo/GFR_

"In our business, whether it's a house fire or cardiac arrest, every little second counts," Rice said Monday. "And the fire station is a piece that we get to control. We don't control how fast dispatch gets the call in and gets it over to us, but we can control how fast we get to the trucks and get going."

The new 22,000-square-foot Fire Station 1 at 525 S. Main St. is equipped with rapid opening doors synchronized to its emergency alarms.

When an emergency alarm goes off, the doors to the fire station apparatus bays automatically open -- cutting the time it took the doors to open from about 15 seconds to less than 10 seconds, Rice said.

The new station, which cost $10 million, also features technology that allows its alarms to target the appropriate first responders' dorms.

Rice said the old Fire Station 1, located across the street from the new station, housed several different response teams.

When the alarm would sound, the firefighters would go from resting overnight to jumping up and wondering if the alarm sounded was meant for their unit.

"They would be sleeping and then all of a sudden, they're up and their heart is beating at 150 beats a minute trying to find out if they had to go out," Rice said. "The new station will take off some of the stress."

Also new at the station will be three firepoles -- a feature that was taken out of the old station in 1990, Rice said.

The poles were taken out because the station did not have a way of preventing diesel fuel exhaust fumes from rising in the air and into the firefighters' dorms.

The new station features a technology that extracts diesel exhaust from the vehicles.

"At the old station, 12 people were trying to get down a 3 feet wide stairwell and they had to rush to get in the truck," Rice said.

The poles will allow firefighters and emergency response units to go from second-floor dorms or the station's fitness room to the apparatus bay in less than a second, Rice said.

The new station can fit 12 firefighters and four emergency response units at a time.

To show off the new station, the fire rescue will host a community event Aug. 11 at 8:30 a.m., which will include a dedication ceremony, tours and events for kids, including eating a healthy snack with a firefighter, fire prevention and exercise activities in the new firefighter training area.

Rice said she's not sure what will happen with the old fire station. She said the city has had several businesses interested in the space -- one being a local brewery.

Rice said the fire rescue decided it needed a new station after conditions in the old building, built in 1965, started deteriorating. She said GRF knew it was time to move on.

As of Monday afternoon, Rice said firefighters were helping each other move into the new building and eating pizza to celebrate the new digs.

"I have to say, after all of these years of planning," she said, "I am excited to see this come to fruition."

GFR operates nine fire stations throughout Gainesville, according to a media release, and has 170 sworn personnel. It responded to emergencies 24,000 times last year.

Rice said Fire Station 1 primarily serves areas within a 1 1/2 -mile radius.

Alachua County and Gainesville commissioners made an agreement in June that through Sept. 2019, the closest fire rescue unit to an emergency will respond regardless of city boundary.

Copyright 2018 The Gainesville Sun

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