Scott Hechler, Hernando County Fire Chief and Director of Public Safety spoke to the Board of County Commissioners on July 13, 2021 about two very important projects that they’ve been working on for years. He expressed appreciation towards the county for their support, patience, and the perseverance to bring the projects to this point.
Fire Station 6 in Hernando Beach is a replacement station for the station located at 3451 Shoal Line Blvd. The station was formerly the Hernando Beach Volunteer fire department until the county terminated the contract in 2017 due to financial mismanagement. Currently the station consists of two 2500 square foot bays- one built in 1981 and the other in 2011. Murals were painted on the bay doors by volunteers in 2018. These murals will be preserved and incorporated into the new building. Chief Hechler stated, “As can be seen by the station 6 drawing, we assured the community from the beginning that we would incorporate the artwork into the new station. The art was made prior to rebranding as Hernando County Fire & Emergency Services. We also wanted the station to fit in the community, so we designed it to resemble a beach house. The covered open area will be available for small community gatherings and meetings. The Hernando Beach Firehouse is designed for the current ALS engine company daily staffing plus potential ambulance staffing as call volumes dictate at some point in the future.”
The construction firm chosen for the project is Blackwater Construction Services out of Gainesville with a base bid of $1.7 million. The project will be mostly funded by a $1.2 million appropriation from the state, which was secured in 2018. The plan is for HCFR to obtain a line of credit for the balance.
Fire Station 5, currently located at 9490 Eldridge Road, Spring Hill is also a replacement station for firefighters that have been working out of a modular trailer for about a decade now. Station 5 is the new model template for future county multi-company fire stations. Whereas this station will have 4 apparatus bays and necessarily larger living accommodations, the standard template design includes smaller living areas and 3 bays.
The construction contract for Fire Station 5 was awarded to New Vista Builders Group for $5,072,518.
“We couldn’t have gotten there with your support, as well as the support of several state officials,” said Chief Hechler.
“Which is why I wanted to invite the public, county, and the state officials involved to the ribbon cutting ceremony for both,” stated Hechler.
He said that in September, two temporary trailers will be brought in. “We will move the crews there, so service will be maintained throughout this project,” he explained.
“The firefighters are very excited. They want to see dirt moved,” said Hechler.
County Administrator Jeff Rogers remarked, “I will add to the board, when we went through this process for Fire Station No. 5, we designed the fire station like a prototype fire station. That way we are able to expedite future fire station buildings by saving that design so we can use that for all of them. We also have a prototype for a bigger fire station when they need more bays and (a prototype for) the smaller station when there are less bays needed for certain areas.”
Rogers explained that a lot of safety considerations were made in the design of the fire stations with separations that prevent truck exhaust from affecting sleeping areas.
Chief Hechler stated that the new stations are designed to last between 50 and 75 years. He says Station 5 will be a Super Station as they will house an engine company, a rescue company, the staff ladder will move to station 5 as well as the Battalion Chief. There will be enough space for another rescue company to be assigned to Station 5 if needed. In order to enhance firefighter health and safety and reduce their risk of cancer, we designed the station with hot, warm, and cold zones to separate carcinogens from the living and office areas of the station.
The station will have a training room with an exterior entrance to allow for community meetings. The room will also have murphy beds for use during hurricanes or other disasters requiring call-back of firefighters. The station will have a SCBA shop for repairs and maintenance of firefighting air packs.
Finally, it will have heart-saving alert tone capabilities and means of egress red lighting to allow for protection of the heart and eyes.
Commissioner Holcomb asked, “Does 5 have a pizza oven?”
“It does,” replied Chief Hechler.
Commissioner Champion made a motion to approve 6 and 9, with a second from Holcomb. The motion was unanimously passed.