Fire station going up

IMG_6439HOUSTON – The foundation has been poured and contractors are looking for a couple of days of good weather to start erecting steel for a new fire station in Houston.

Workers were busy last week placing pipe for plumbing, digging footings and pouring concrete for the new 50X52-foot structure. The three-bay metal building will keep county firefighting equipment out of the elements.

“Firetrucks have pumps and water and if they get hit with freezing weather it can spring gaskets,” said Ricko Nichols, Houston Street Department Superintendent. “Sunlight is not good for the hoses and these trucks last a lot longer when they are kept inside.”

Nichols said erecting the building would only take a week or two and trucks should be parked in the building by Christmas.

“Putting the building up will go fast,” said Nichols. “This will be a nice addition to the fire department and look good in the middle of town.”

The city is funding the construction and Chickasaw County handled the dirtwork with county equipment this summer to prep the site.

“Right now we’ve got three trucks that we can’t put under a roof,” said Houston Fire Department Captain Jonathan Blankenship. “We’ve got a brush truck and tanker that are out in the weather. We’ve also got a pumper that the county owns and it responds to county fire. When they all get in here it is sort of crowded.”

Houston borrowed money to get construction of the fire station started and is looking to do much of the work themselves.

The three-bay building will face south and trucks will roll onto Harrington Street.

Houston recently took delivery of a new mini-pumper that has taken much of the workload off larger pumpers.

Blankenship has repeatedly said 60 percent of the department’s calls are medical related and responding with smaller truck is more economical and leaves the tankers and pumper ready to respond to true fire calls.

“We will also not have to shuffle trucks if the brush truck or water tanker has to roll to a grass fire in the county,” said Blankenship. “We’ve really been cramped for space down here.”

The new fire station will not immediately improve the city’s fire rating.

Houston has a Class 7 fire rating. Moving to a Class 6 would not dramatically reduce insurance rates for homeowners and would probably require to the city to hire additional personnel, build and staff a new fire station, up grade water lines and therefore raise taxes.

Houston currently has six full-time firefighters with two per 24-hour shift. The department also has about 20 volunteers.

All firetruck drivers in Mississippi must successfully pass a safe driving class and then pass an extensive road test.

Dirt removed from the Harrington Street site was used to fill in a ditch next to the Kids Park on Starkville Road.

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