On Saturday, Dec. 2, a ceremony was held to mark the grand opening of Fire Station number 5. Located at 9252 Spring Hill Drive, Spring Hill, the new station is a permanent replacement for the one that could originally be found on 9490 Eldridge Road. This is a long overdue replacement for the modular trailers that firefighters have operated out of for roughly 16 years. It will also serve another purpose, though. The project will act as a template for future multi-company fire stations that will be established in the county.
In his opening remarks at the ceremony, Hernando County Fire Chief Paul Hasenmeier noted that station 5 is the first new such building “in decades” as the last one to be constructed was the rebuilt Fire Station 3 back in 2007. Hasenmeier thanked various members of the community who supported the fire department and helped the station to be built, including Robert Ginn, Jr., CEO of Tampa General Hospital Brooksville and Spring Hill; Ken Wicker, CEO of Oak Hill Hospital; Hernando County Project Manager Erik van de Boogaard; Hernando County Finance Manager Kelly Trout, and County Administrator Jeff Rogers, among many others.
County Commissioners Brian Hawkins, Steve Champion, and Jerry Campbell also spoke at Saturday’s event. They thanked the county’s first responders and talked about their responsibilities to their constituents. Commissioner Hawkins touched on the topic of safety, while Commissioner Champion noted that this was one of the ways that they, as leaders, spend taxpayers’ money responsibly.
“When we went through this process for Fire Station No. 5, we designed the fire station like a prototype fire station,” County Administrator Rogers stated in a 2021 meeting about the building plans. “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.”
New stations following this model are designed to last anywhere from 50 to 75 years and station 5 was planned to be a “superstation,” as described by then Hernando County Director of Public Safety and Fire Chief Scott Hechler in 2021. The plan called for the property to house an engine company, a rescue company, a battalion chief, and more if need be.
The station features a training room with Murphy beds in the case of disasters like hurricanes that require the call-back of firefighters, an SCBA shop to repair and maintain firefighting air packs, there are specialized machines to decontaminate firefighter gear, firefighter dorms and captain’s offices, a gym where they have a peer fitness program, a kitchen with stainless steel commercial appliances, a medical supply room with a first aid supply dispenser and a storage room for firefighter gear.
The newly completed building has four bays alongside a larger living space. The construction contract for the station was originally awarded to New Vista Builders Group for just over $5 million.
Multiple speakers at the weekend festivities, including Battalion Chief Alex Lopez, revealed that they have served at stations operating out of mobile units for years. Lopez and other speakers likened the shiny new facility to a home and voiced their appreciation for the new base of operations.
“I like to say firehouse, not so much fire station because a house is indicative of a home and this is a fire department’s home.” He said the firehouse is a source of pride as a firefighter in this community.
“Today, we’re taking a giant step forward in providing additional support and resources to continue to service the great community and the great residents of Hernando County and also providing a safe place, as others have already mentioned, for a home for these firefighters,” Commissioner Campbell said. “So, to that, I say ‘welcome home’ to all the team members that will be stationed here now and in the future, and thank you for joining us today.”
At the end of the ceremony, Fire Captain Richard Bozek made a special presentation to Hernando County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joe Merando. Deputy Merando built and donated a “Living Wood Dining Table” to the new firehouse, complete with the fire station’s insignia engraved on the table.
“To a lot of you, a table is just a place to eat. But our table in our house is somewhere where offgoing crews, ongoing crews share their experience of the day,” said Bozek.
It’s a place where they laugh together or help each other get through the aftermath of difficult calls.
Deputy Merando said that he witnessed the importance of a table in area firehouses during recent hurricanes and decided to build one for Station 5.
The rest of the day’s festivities included tours of the fire station, photos with Santa and the Grinch and firefighter meet and greet with the community.