It was almost one year ago that ground was broken on what is known as Fire Station 51 on Marco Island. The replacement of that structure was necessary due to an unfortunate fire that rendered it uninhabitable since July of 2016.
Upon returning to quarters from a call, firefighters’ hearts dropped when they turned onto East Elkcam Circle and saw smoke rolling out from the large single bay door of the station that their engine usually sat behind. Instinct, however, immediately kicked in and they quickly extinguished the fire caused by a lightning strike while they were out on another storm-related call.
Only three years prior to the fire, the department, with the assistance of on duty personnel and a volunteer effort, was able reopen the formerly closed station, an older structure. They began running calls from that location and improving response times to certain areas of the island.
“Time is not a friend to us when it involves a fire, a serious injury, or life-threatening medical call such as a stroke or cardiac incident. Minutes can mean the difference between a positive outcome, or a sad result,” said Deputy Chief David Batiato.
After the fire, the department continued to maintain those improved response times. A plan was put into place, and the city acquired a temporary trailer, placed at the Marco Utility Complex adjacent to the old Station 51, until a final plan was crafted for the replacement of the structure.
“Council saw the rationale in maintaining our improved response times and gave the ok to acquire the temporary quarters and the personnel would run out of that facility,” said Chief Mike Murphy.
Former City Manager Roger Hernstadt and Fire Chief Mike Murphy leveraged the city’s lobbyist in Tallahassee and received a grant for $250,000 to proceed to have plans drawn for the replacement of the facility.
The following year another grant of $750,000 was received for construction costs, however the insurance carrier balked at paying for more than just damages. The facilities could not just be rebuilt due to the fact that they no longer met FEMA or Life Safety Codes.
The city attorney would continue to doggedly pursue a more palatable resolution to the negotiations and an agreement was finally reached.
On Friday, March 15 the community is invited to the Marco Island Fire Department’s christening of the new Station 51.
The new 9,000 square foot building is hurricane proof up to 185 mph and will provide the department with a fortified structure to work from during storm events. During a major storm event, it can safely house personnel and other city employees, if necessary. Should power be interrupted, the building will be self-sufficient, utilizing its own power supply.
The main living area is on the top floor, except for the fully equipped workout room, which is located on the second floor overlooking the apparatus floor. The main floor will house two to three pieces of apparatus or command vehicles, as necessary.
The new building includes five private bunk rooms, all of which will be provided with bunk beds to allow personnel to double up in those rooms in case there is a need to hold over shifts. There are three separate shower rooms complete with toilets and sinks. There are another three public rooms. The expansive combination day room and kitchen area overlooks the large front ramp area, all of which sits behind reinforced hurricane-rated windows.
The large training room will be equipped for conversion into an “operations center,” should the need arise, something that was lacking in the former facilities.
Closets, storage areas and audio-visual advancements are plentiful, as is the ability to wash one’s clothing as necessary. In addition to use for personnel laundry, the facility has state-of-the-art decontamination equipment to clean gear that has become contaminated with materials and chemicals known as possible carcinogens.
The apparatus bays are also equipped with the ability to remove dangerous airborne particulates which may pose additional cancer risks. Cancers, as well as heart-related ailments, are known to be the leading causes of firefighters’ early deaths.
The dedication of the new Station 51 will be held on March 15 beginning at 3:30 PM at its facilities on East Elkcam Circle. Tours of the building and equipment will be ongoing, as will be remarks from various City of Marco Island council members and Fire-Rescue Department personnel.