Work to build a new home for the Fort Washington Fire Company is officially underway after Upper Dublin Township held a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 2.
The new firehouse, which will be located at 1245 Fort Washington Ave., will replace the company's current main location, Station 88-A, which is located at 220 Summit Ave.
Members of the fire company, township officials, local legislators and community members gathered at the site for the ceremony to launch a construction project that has been in the works for years.
"Seven years ago, I was convinced of the need for a strategic plan for fire services, and the following year, the board of commissioners authorized a contract for that effort," said Robert Pessavento, president of the Upper Dublin Board of Commissioners. "The plan began a step-wise approach resulting in the demonstrated need for a new firehouse. … Today, the culmination of that effort will soon be upon us."
Fort Washington Fire Company Chief Brian Newhall addressed the importance of the new station to the company.
"A fire station like this one is more than just a building," he said. "Of course it's a place where we'll be housing our trucks and storing our gear, but it's also a place where members of the fire company will be training, maintaining our equipment, studying socializing and spending time with each other and standing by in case a call for help should be received. A fire station can become the heart of a fire company."
Several state officials were present for the groundbreaking, and each commended the work the township and the fire company have done to move the project forward, as well as thanking the Fort Washington Fire Company for the service it provides.
"This has been a long and collaborative effort between the community, its residents, its elected leaders and, of course, the very brave men and women of the [Fort Washington] Fire Company," state Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-153, said. "As we put our shovels in the ground here today in the beginning of erecting the building, know it's not just the walls and trucks and all the equipment that's going to be housed in there. This will really be a symbol of the strength of our community."
"I want to congratulate the township, the commissioners for their support of the fire company and, of course, the fire company themselves and their dedication to growth and dealing with the issues of public safety and fire protection," state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-12, said.
"The fact that we're doing this today to have the groundbreaking for a first-class firehouse is an awesome thing, but the firehouse is just a structure," state Rep. Rick Taylor, D-151, said. "I think really what we're here to do is to praise and celebrate the men and women who are making this possible, who are supporting this structure and supporting the community."
The commissioners, local officials and members of the fire company then picked up shovels for the ceremonial groundbreaking, officially beginning the construction of the new firehouse.
The township put the contract for the construction of the firehouse out to bid Sept. 29, and the board of commissioners will be awarding the contract later this month, according to Gregory Breyer, director of fire services. Construction should begin in early November and will take approximately one year to complete.
The new building will be one story with a total of just less than 21,000 square feet, according to Breyer. The building will feature five drive-through bays, which is an increase from the four at the current station.
The building will be divided into three areas.
The first will be the bays, while the second will be a living space. This area will feature a large dayroom, a study room, an exercise room and eight bunkrooms. Four of these rooms will be used for a college live-in program, where students from local colleges will live for free at the station in exchange for work with the fire company. The final section of the building will include meeting areas, a training room, offices and areas for township use.
Newhall said the new larger station will be a important benefit for the fire company.
"We currently have run out of room for our equipment," he said. "This'll give us room to expand. This'll give us a platform to train our firefighters in house."
Newhall said leaving the current station, which has housed the fire company for 55 years, will be difficult, but members are extremely excited to get into the new building.
"You hate to say goodbye to a building that's served you well, but the excitement that's building knowing we're going to be the first generation of firefighters, words can't really express it," he said.