People living in Charlottesville's southwest neighborhoods can expect faster emergency response times come the New Year. The Fontaine Avenue Fire Station is now complete and will start providing service January 6.
Chief Charles Werner says it took three decades just to find the right location for the new station. He says thanks to the location, crews can be on the scene in the Fry's Spring and University of Virginia area within just a few minutes - compared to the previous six- to eight-minute average.
The station is more than a firehouse, though. It's a fire department, training facility and an emergency government space all in one.
"If we had to evacuate City Hall we could operate within this fire station,” said Werner.
In the basement of the firehouse, there is an underground tunnel. Crews will practice making their way through the drain pipe to make rescues.
The station is also equipped with a new overhead door that only takes about four seconds to open - sending crews out the door faster than ever before. There is also a gym, kitchen and training rooms and enough bedrooms for every person on a shift to have his own.
The Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad also has a place in the new building. It will house an ambulance and several live-in student crew members. University of Virginia students will live on site free of charge and support CARS operations.
"We've tried to combine the fastest response with the best training features with collaboration with the rescue squad as well as a community focus of being a resource available to our community," said Werner.
The new building also holds a piece of history. 9/11 World Trade Center memorial steel is suspended in the lobby. The building is also LEED certified, meaning it's a sustainable building design and energy-efficient.
Werner says training on site is ideal. Now the crew doesn't have to travel outside the city to do drills, which risks them not being in the area where an emergency happens.
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