HIGH SPRINGS – Looking at the building for the fire department in High Springs, it might be hard to believe the department has been around for a century.
For 100 years now, High Springs has been able to lay claim to their own fire department housed by their own station. The building has only been around for about 46 years of the department’s long history, but a recent facelift makes it look even younger.
The remodel included a 1,867 square-foot addition increased and improved storage, added a server room, hosts enhanced laundry services and has a lobby for the public’s convenience, said Bruce Gillingham, chief, High Springs Fire Department.
The department unveiled the new addition and renovations in a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, open to anyone to attend. The construction project was funded by a donation from Clora Belle Watson Simpson in memory of her husband, Harry H. Simpson Jr., a former member of the department.
The original structure was built in 1967 and due to state and local regulations it did not meet the requirements to house the department. One of the notable improvements that were necessary was changing the storage facility for the equipment.
“Prior to the remodel, firefighting equipment was kept in the bay with the trucks,” Gillingham said. “This was not only using a majority of the space, it is unsafe for the crew to have their equipment stored where it can be exposed to the truck exhaust like that.”
Gillingham referenced a study that linked the uniforms being housed in the exposed manner and a higher possibility for testicular cancer among the firefighters. Now, not only will that risk bereduced, but also the station will be able to preserve their gear better as well, he said.
Another new feature of the improved station is the creation of a lobby as guests enter the building. When they first walk in, there will be a proper waiting area that welcomes people, with access to the chief’s office as well as a way to signal for assistance, Gillingham said.
“When I walked through the doors, it hit me, this was much needed,” said Linda Clark Gestrin, city commissioner. “This is why you have a government, to provide safety, and we are now able to better serve the people of High Springs.”
It has been a very busy time over the last two years and this moves us leaps and bounds closer to where we want to be, Gillingham said. The living facilities have also been vastly improved to accommodate staff.
The renovation would not have been possible without the funding from Mrs. Simpson, Gillingham said. The station placed a plaque above the entry on the outside of the building to honor the donation.
Even though the building saw its original construction in 1967, the department’s formation dates back to 1913, with the station being moved since then. Having and supporting a fire department is something not every city can claim.
Commissioner Gestrin reflected on the significance of the new building.
“The intention of this makeover is to keep the fire department self sufficient,” Gestrin said. “We wanted to be able to enter the 21st Century with our fire station the way it needed to be.”
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