SPRING HILL — The firefighters and paramedics who work in Fire Station 5 will have to endure another year in their inadequate quarters, but by next December they should be in a brand new station.
On Dec. 13, county officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Fire Station 5 at 1922 Spring Hill Drive, next to the county library.
It’s taken about 10 years to get to this point, and other county fire stations are in line for upgrades as well that are designed to make the work lives of county fire-rescue personnel less stressful.
“Today’s a great day,” said County Administrator Jeff Rogers. The County Commission, he said, has been committed to improving fire-rescue services, with highly trained staff and the facilities and resources they need to do the job.
Rogers said he remembered taking a tour of the current station, a double-wide mobile home with large carports for the fire trucks.
“I remember thinking, ‘We definitely need an upgrade to this station,’” he said.
Kenny Nolan, who works in Station 5 now, said it’ll be a big change. He’s been a firefighter in Hernando since 2004, and was assigned to Station 5 in 2018.
“I don’t think you can compare it,” he said of the new station. “Going from a double-wide trailer, under 2,000 square feet, to a four-bay station with 6,000-plus square feet.”
It’s pretty crowded in there now, with three men sharing one bedroom.
Deputy Fire Chief James Billiotte said the new facility is needed, and they’re excited to see the work finally begin.
“The existing station is right around the corner, and we have far outgrown that,” he said. “This is going to be a fantastic project.”
County Commissioner Jeff Holcomb credited state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia and state Sen. Wilton Simpson for approving the item for the station, as well as Station 6 in Hernando Beach.
Holcomb said he also wanted the thank the firefighters of Station 5, who have endured for so long and have been doing their jobs so well.
“There’s no more important aspect of the county than the public safety of our citizens, and these guys are on the front lines of that every single day,” he said.
Fire Chief Scott Hechler said that the last permit should come in this week, and then work can start on getting the land ready. The design of the station will be set up to help firefighters stay healthy and avoid cancer, he said, and will include special lighting to stabilize their sleep rhythms.
“This is a new beginning for us,” he said.
After the posed photos of dignitaries shoveling dirt, the crowd walked over to where the sign announcing the new fire station is set up. As traffic whizzed past on Spring Hill Drive, fire-rescue officials and county officials posed near the sign.
Billotte said six firefighters plus a battalion chief are at the current station, and the new one will hold up to 20 in comfort in an emergency. A road will open onto Spring Hill Drive with a traffic light the station can control, he added.
A community and conference room in the new station will double as sleeping quarters with Murphy-type beds in the walls. “In the event of an emergency such as a hurricane or something like that, we can almost triple staff easily,” he said.
“In about a year or so, everybody’s going to be jealous of where you guys are stationed here in Hernando County,” Holcomb said to the firefighters of Station 5. “Congratulations on your new fire station.”