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Groundbreaking held for Springfield’s 13th fire station along old Route 66

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 6:49 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Springfield’s firefighting history dates back to the mid-1800′s and over the years while the buildings and firefighting equipment have changed, the goal of providing quick fire and emergency response has remained the same.

With over 200 employees covering 82 square miles, the Springfield Fire Department currently has 12 stations but is about to add a 13th in the west central part of town at 1900 West College, which is part of old Route 66.

At the groundbreaking on Thursday Springfield Fire Chief David Pennington explained why a new station was needed at that particular location.

“This area, based on our call volume, is under-served in terms of how much time it takes us to get to an emergency in these neighborhoods,” he said. “We also know that we have a lot of fire incidents not only in this neighborhood but adjoining neighborhoods. If you look at our Project Red Zone, which is our smoke detector project, our Red Zone is a (high) risk shown on a map. It shows up red like a thunderstorm and it passes right through this area and up to the north.”

The new Fire Station #13 should be done by fall of next year, costing $3.15 million and paid for by part of a Level Property Tax that voters approved in 2017.

“That tax had been in place since 1996,” Springfield Mayor Ken McClure said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “We had developed some headroom in that tax meaning that we could go to the voters and ask them to fund public safety needs with no tax increase. The voters overwhelmingly approved that by a 75 percent vote in 2017 and that’s enabled us to do things like Fire Station #13 and the other facilities that we’re either building new or renovating. All badly needed.”

Those other current projects include a new Fire Station #4 going up just north of Kearney replacing the one built in 1968. And the now oldest station (#7) on East Sunshine built in 1958 will be replaced by 2023.

Fire Station #10 at Galloway and Luster is currently being renovated as well.

And if you’re wondering how the fire department determines when it’s time to replace old structures?

“About that 50 year mark is what they’re built for,” Pennington explained. “They’ve begun to be so cumbersome in terms of maintenance. For example the windows leak, the roof needs to be replaced and there are plumbing problems. We know there is a defined lifespan of a firehouse. It’s different than a residential occupancy and it’s different than a commercial building.”

There is one more future facility to be built under the current funding structure and that will be Fire Station #14, which is planned to be constructed on what is now an empty field at West Chestnut Expressway and Duke Avenue. Pennington hopes to have that done by 2026 but just like the rest of us, the fire department’s construction timelines are subject to change because of the pandemic’s effect on the supply chain.

“Right now we’re having some supply challenges on Fire Station #4 in terms of getting supplies,” Pennington said. “We’re running into slow downs on things like steel and roofing materials or the price has been so inflated that it’s not affordable. So we have to manage that.”

Although the funding would have to be made available, Pennington is also hoping to add three more fire stations to bring the total to 17 with two of them coming in the south and southeast part of town and one in the northeast part of the city. All of this with the goal of keeping response times down to six-and-a-half minutes (or less) when it comes to the first units arriving on scene... no matter where you live.

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