By Suzy Kridner
EDGEWATER - For years, the city's main fire station was housed in a four-building complex, with firemen on duty crammed into 444 square feet of living and sleeping space in a 40-year-old building.
"We had 7,500 to 8,000 square feet in four separate buildings," said Fire Chief Stephen Cousins in a recent interview.
Several weeks ago, the department moved into a new, modern facility, Station 55, on the site of the former 40-year-old complex on U.S. 1.
Station 57 at 2628 Hibiscus Drive near Florida Shores serves the west side of the city.
At Station 55, the department's offices, living space and fire trucks are consolidated in one modern 10,000-square-foot building, due largely to a $1.14 million grant for station replacement received from FEMA, the chief said. The city made up the difference of the $1.8 million project.
Chief Cousins credits Lt. Dan Ruth with writing the proposal for the FEMA grant that resulted in the new station.
"Dan has taken on writing grants for the department and the 2009 FEMA grant for station replacement was only available that year," the chief said.
Edgewater was one of six Florida departments and 100 nationwide to receive a grant, the chief said.
"We then went to the City Council to get funding for additional space for trucks and offices and the city put in the difference, he said. Edgewater's City Manager, Tracey Barlow, was Fire Chief at that time.
"Increasing the project to $1.8 million allowed us to have the offices incorporated into the station and also gave us a third bay to keep all our trucks under cover."
Lt. Ruth said he began writing grants around 2000 and to date, "we have been fortunate to have been awarded nearly $4 million in grant monies."
In addition to funding for the new station, other large grants have provided cardiac monitors/defibrillators, advanced life support equipment and reporting software and computers. Grants also included $931,500 in 2006 and $863,302 in 2010, both for staffing for adequate fire and emergency response.
The grant money and city funds allow Station 55 to have the latest in firehouse equipment, such as a large commercial washing machine to clean uniforms and bunker gear filthy with smoke.
There's also a shower stall to decontaminate personnel who may have been exposed to hazardous materials.
Water for the washer and other appliances is heated by solar panels on the roof.
The kitchen features a commercial grade gas stove and refrigerator/freezers to store plenty of supplies.
There also is plenty of room to feed and house emergency workers in case of a disaster. These could include fire, police and public works employees.
The building also would serve as a mini emergency operations center, the Chief said.
A large wooden table seats 10, although there are usually five on duty per shift. And there is dorm space for eight. Each dorm area also has three lockers, one for each shift.
The station's green initiative includes natural light from high windows and fluorescent lights everywhere are sensor driven so if the squad races out to a fire, the lights will go out. The tower on the west side of the station is decorative but also is used for training, said Capt. Jill Danigel, who is one of two captains on the department and is in charge of operations. The other captain, Jeff Lariscy, is the fire marshal and is in charge of life safety.