A new fire engine bay planned for an outdated station in Winter Park may be the fire department’s latest method to get to emergencies faster.
Winter Park City Commissioners approved construction of a new bay at the backend of Fire Station 64 along Howell Branch Road – a station built in 1968 that Fire Chief Jim White said is in desperate need of improvements.
White said the new structure would not only allow the station to house a new ambulance unit in the future to provide more coverage, but it has the potential to cut down response times throughout the city. Fire Station 64 consistently houses fire engines receiving maintenance and repairs, but with a new fire engine bay the station can also house a ready-to-go reserve engine, allowing firefighters to easily swap engines and be ready for the next call.
“It’s almost like when you go to a car dealer for your service and there’s a car sitting there for you to use,” White said. “It makes the swapping a lot easier, which keeps the resources in their regular stations longer. That’s a big plus.”
The Winter Park Fire Department has consistently chipped away at lowering response times over the years. In 2006, Winter Park firefighters responded to 90 percent of their calls within 8 minutes and 56 seconds, from the initial call being received to the first unit arriving at the site of the fire. That number proved to be better than most, as 90 percent of the calls received nationwide in 2006 were responded to in less than 11 minutes, according to a report from the U.S. Fire Administration.
Today, Winter Park firefighters answer the same percentage of calls within 7 minutes and 34 seconds. White said the fire department has to come up with creative ways to continue cutting the time even further in an already built-out city.
The station along Howell Branch Road wasn’t built with the intention of housing full-time firefighters. The building was originally used by volunteer firefighters in the Goldenrod-Domeric Fire Protection District, but today houses three full time Winter Park firefighters that live there 24/7 in a 900-square-foot space.
The new bay will allow the three occupying firefighters more living space within the current bay, as well as make room for two paramedics once the station receives an ambulance unit.
It’s important to not only to make firefighters more productive, Mayor Steve Leary said, but more comfortable.
“We owe staff and specifically emergency service the best environment to work in,” Leary said. “That facility was in dire need.”
“We’ll make that facility up to par with the rest of the facilities we have in Winter Park.”
White said the city will now search for a bid to construct the new bay, with a completion date expected by the end of the year.