The firefighters had to leave their open house to respond to a house fire on Choccolocco Road. But they were back on open house duty before the event ended at 2 p.m.
The new fire station was a needed expansion, said Van Roberts Sr., fire chief. The 23 volunteer firefighters in the department are a busy group. They answered 286 calls, fire and medical, in 2011, and the number of calls has risen steadily since the early 1990s when the department first formed, said Van Roberts Jr., assistant fire chief and full-time firefighter for the Anniston Army Depot.
The name Quad Cities Volunteer Fire Department is a little misleading, Fire Chief Roberts said. The fire department actually includes five communities in its territory — Chosea Springs, where the new fire station is located, Old Davis Town, Choccolocco, Pleasant Ridge and Iron City. In addition, the department is notified whenever there is a call in White Plains and provides aid automatically, he said. The firefighters also have an agreement with the Oxford, Anniston and Heflin fire departments to provide assistance when requested, he said.
Roberts, who has been a firefighter for 40 years, has volunteered with the Quad Cities department since it formed.
His wife, Sandy, said in the beginning, the firefighters were working with outdated equipment and every time a call came in they would pray the truck would start.
But that changed right around 1996 when the county implemented a fire tax to help fund the local departments. Suddenly the department could invest in equipment and facilities. The investment paid off for residents when they saw their homeowners insurance rates go down as the department became more up-to-date and able to respond more quickly.
But it also spotlighted some shortcomings in the old station on Iron City Road.
“With the trucks that we have, when you close the door, the bumper’s against the back wall and you’ve got about 2 inches on the front,” Roberts Sr. said. “It’s just too small.”
This latest investment of about $850,000 — $10,000 for the lot and $840,000 for the building — was financed through a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan, and will also be paid through the tax proceeds, the fire chief said.
“This one’s built for the future,” Roberts Jr. said. “It gives us room to grow.”
It includes training space, a meeting area, four bays, an updated kitchen and administration offices. It could become a full-time department if need be, Roberts Sr. said.
Calhoun County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Entrekin said he thought the new firehouse would add to the efficiency of the department. Having the three stations will allow the department to respond quickly throughout the coverage area, he said.
Entrekin, who is also a volunteer firefighter in Jacksonville, was impressed with the Quad Cities department.
“To me just looking at it, this is a pretty outstanding volunteer fire department,” Entrekin said.
Linda Sheets, who lives across the street from the new fire station, said she felt more secure having the station so close.
“They can respond faster,” Sheets said.
The new station has been in the works for about six years, and Sheets welcomes its completion.
“It’s been a long time coming,” she said.
Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.