MANATEE -- After almost 30 years cramped into a space smaller than an average apartment, West Manatee Fire Rescue has a newly remodeled station for its crew to call their home away from home.
West Manatee will dedicate its newly remodeled Fire Station No. 2 at 10 a.m. Saturday at 10350 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, followed by refreshments and an open house until 1 p.m.
"It was very cramped for
all these years," Fire Chief Kenneth Price said. "It was just the right time to upgrade the facility to a size that will accommodate all the crew living out there."
The station was built in 1987 to house volunteers but today at least five firefighter and two paramedics are stationed there daily.
The $1.5 million remodel began in 2012 with planning and design. Construction took about eight months to complete.
Tripling its size to about 2,100 square feet, improvements include a new roof, modern kitchen, television room, gym and a dining room also used for training.
The most significant improvement at the station, however, has been construction of eight individual bunk rooms for the crew.
"It's an extreme change to before," Lt. Paul Hopkins said. "When we moved into the trailer (during construction) out back, that was an improvement."
Individual rooms are essential now because firefighters and paramedics are no longer all men as was commonplace when the station was built, he said.
Bunk rooms also allow on-duty crew privacy and rest in between calls. Firefighters work 24-hour shifts so napping whenever possible between calls is important.
In the past, everyone slept in the same room so one person who snored could keep the whole crew up, for example, Price said.
"The better they are rested, the better they can provide service," Price said.
Firefighter Chris O'Kelly said he loves the expansion.
"It's probably one of the best built fire stations I have ever seen," O'Kelly said.
In addition to everyday comforts, the station is also better equipped to house staff during a hurricane, O'Kelly added.
"We can pack a whole lot more people in here now," O'Kelly said.
This is the second district station to get a makeover. Next to be remodeled is station No. 4 at 407 67th St. W.
"The committee is meeting to select a design build team," Price said.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.