DANVILLE — Volunteer firefighters with the Kickapoo Fire Protection District were enjoying lots of extra space and amenities Wednesday night during their first monthly training in the department's new fire station, which will be open to the public Saturday.
"We are pretty proud to show off all of our hard work," said Randy Schuman, a volunteer firefighter and vice president of the fire protection district board.
The public is invited to tour the new fire station at 1445 Warrington Ave., west of Danville, during an open house set for 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday with free hot dogs, chips and drinks available.
Between training sessions and answering calls, the firefighters did some minor renovations recently to their new station, which is housed in the former Mr. Tire business just off U.S. 150. Earlier this week, they moved all of their vehicles and equipment from the old station less than a mile away at 1717 Oakwood Ave., where quarters were very tight, Schuman said.
After voters approved a tax increase in 2017 to give the district a revenue boost, the original plan was to renovate and expand the old station, but there were issues that could not be fixed, like the lot size and its proximity to Oakwood Avenue. The front bumpers of the engines poked into the roadway when parked in front of the building, Schuman said.
So when the larger, newer Mr. Tire building with multiple garage bays, updated restrooms and a large kitchen became available, the board decided buying it for $180,000 and doing minor improvements would be a much more efficient way to accomplish their main goal of expansion.
"We're excited," said Schuman, adding that the new building is about five times the size of the old station — roughly an 8,000 square foot increase — but response times will remain the same, because they've moved less than a mile.
The department will still keep its second, smaller station on 2200 East Road in the northern part of the district, said Schuman, who is hoping that the increased visibility of the new station will help volunteer numbers grow.
He said the district has a roster of 20-25 volunteers, but only a smaller core group is most active. While private ambulance services now respond to medical calls in the district, which averaged about 450 to 470 a year, Shuman said, firefighters still respond to more serious calls like extrications and other rescue services, in addition to all fire calls.
He said volunteer fire departments nationwide are finding it challenging to maintain an adequate number of personnel.
"You can never have enough," said Schuman, who encourages the public, particularly anyone interested in becoming a volunteer, to visit the new headquarters.