Builders making headway on brand new Ind. fire station

Ground was broken on the roughly 10,000 square-foot Clarksville Fire Station, which will replace the station that's stood since 1977

By Aprile Rickert
The Evening News and the Tribune

CLARKSVILLE, Ind. — On a wall inside Clarksville Fire Station No. 1 on Stansifer Avenue hangs a framed photo nearly 20 years old with the faces of every firefighter who served at that time, representing a combined experience of a few hundred years.

Some had more than 30 years under their belts when they retired, some are now veteran firefighters themselves. And there are new faces, not pictured in the framed photo, which have come to carry the hose.

Ground was broken on the roughly 10,000 square-foot Clarksville fire station in April, which will replace the station that's stood since 1977.
Ground was broken on the roughly 10,000 square-foot Clarksville fire station in April, which will replace the station that's stood since 1977. (Photo/City of Clarksville)

And it's the soul of the department that firefighters say they'll carry to the new station across Stansifer Avenue when it's ready for them to move in at the start of the year.

“There's a lot of heart in this building,” Clarksville Fire Maj. Kelley Rudder said. “There's a lot of heart in this department of people wanting to do right. Whether we're in this building or the neighboring building, I feel that will always be strong.”

Ground was broken on the roughly 10,000 square-foot facility in April, which will replace the station that's stood since 1977, which replaced the one that was built in 1926.

The $3.4 million project, paid for with Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, dollars, was designed in conjunction with architect Kovert Hawkins and the Clarksville Redevelopment Commission with input from the department.

It will feature a face that is reminiscent of the original 1920s design, with a modern and comfortable interior. New features include an exhaust system to draw harmful fumes from the bay area, a decontamination spot for firefighters, updated dispatch and lighting equipment and a workout area.

And the last few weeks have shown dramatic progress on the facility. Under the leadership of AML Construction, the new station is starting to take shape.

“I'm really surprised to see how fast it's coming along,” Clarksville Fire Chief Brandon Skaggs said. “It seemed like once they got out of the ground and started building the walls, it seems like every day you see noticeable changes.”

Skaggs is excited to be leading the department during a time of growth for Clarksville, and the new station is one example of that.

“You can talk about progression but this is actually seeing progression,” he said. “For me to be in this position as a fire chief to see a new face of the firehouse on Stansifer Avenue, it's just amazing.”

Station No. 1, previously the headquarters before it moved to Sam Gwin Drive, has always been at the heart of the community, Skaggs said. Building the new station in the area means it can continue to be.

“Everyone knows where the firehouse is,” he said. “It's a common place for the public to stop in, ask for directions, ask for help or just to see the fire trucks.”

Maj. Rudder said he is a little sad to leave the current building, where's he's served about half of his 15-year career. The kitchen, for example, has always served as a hub for operations beyond just meals.

“That's where a lot of things are done is at the table in the kitchen,” he said. “That's where we meet in the morning, that's where we all start our day and that's one of the things I'll miss the most.”

But Rudder said he knows the new facility will make better use of space, will be more efficient and cost effective for the town, and he knows the heart of the department will carry on no matter where they go.

“It's a good feeling,” he said, of the new facility. “It's good to see the department grow. It's also good to see we're investing in the community's future by making the facility better and more convenient.”

There were previous discussions on how to handle the aging facility, but officials determined through talks with Kovert Hawkins that the most economically responsible approach would be to erect a new building rather than update the old one.

Construction of the new firehouse remains on schedule, so the firefighters should make the move by the start of the year. Although there were a couple of minor site issues that resulted in an additional $25,000 in change orders, Clarksville Redevelopment Director Dylan Fischer said those are relatively minor in the scope of the entire project.

“Everything has gone off well,” he said. “AML has done a really good job and they're still on schedule for everything — they're still intended to be in come January.”

As the station gets closer to completion, Chief Skaggs said the iconic firefighter statue outside the current station will move to its new post across the street. It will be near a memorial meant to pay homage to the firefighters who have lost their lives while on active duty, including George Walker, who died in the line of duty in the early 2000s.

“That's the ultimate sacrifice, to lay your life down for another,” he said. “Through the years, as people get hired, retire, the new firefighters can look at that wall and see who walked in those shoes before them, and it keeps our tradition alive.”

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