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Santa Rosa County--Gulf Breeze Fire Dept to get new Station

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  • Santa Rosa County--Gulf Breeze Fire Dept to get new Station

    Gulf Breeze fire protection grows


    Construction to begin in the spring for new facility


    Kimberly Blair
    @PensacolaNewsJournal.com

    Twenty years ago, the Gulf Breeze volunteer fire department responded to fewer than 200 calls a year.

    Today, mostly because of growth in South Santa Rosa County, the 28-member department is the first responder to more than 600 fires, vehicle accidents and medical emergencies a year, said Shane Carmichael, director of community services for the city.

    It rolls out the trucks to offer mutual-aid to Midway and Pensacola Beach, and it launches personal watercraft and a Boston Whaler for water rescues in Santa Rosa Sound and Pensacola Bay. Its members also are trained to help combat forest fires at Gulf Islands National Seashore's Naval Live Oaks.

    To cope with the new demands, the city plans to replace the small 1950s-era station on Fairpoint Drive with a larger $900,000-plus firehouse. The department already has purchased a $400,000 ladder truck.

    Construction on the firehouse is slated for the spring after a contractor is selected through a bidding process.

    "We're really excited and looking forward to seeing the station come to fruition," said Fire Chief Bob Minshull, who has been with the department since 1972.

    The new 8,000-square-foot building will provide enough room to store the department's growing fleet of trucks and equipment and will provide ample space for training. It will have a bunk room, kitchen, community room and showers.

    Equipment and trucks are now housed in several different buildings, and the new firetruck barely fits through the bay doors of the existing building, Carmichael said.

    The new truck with a 100-foot ladder was critical to the department having the capability of rescuing people from the growing number of large homes being built in the area. The truck also has greater water pumping capacity.

    In addition, the bunk room will provide a place for firefighters to stay during natural disasters, such as hurricanes. For now, they have to set up cots or roll out sleeping bags.

    Adding the sleeping quarters allows the volunteer department the ability to become a full-time paid department in the future, if needed.

    "There are no plans to go to a career department, but in case in the future we have to, we can accomplish that," Carmichael said.

    The bunk room also offers a recruiting opportunity, he said.

    "A volunteer fire department is always looking at ways to recruit people. We plan to put together a bunkhouse program for college students," he said.

    The program, modeled after ones at campuses around the country, provides room and board to college students in exchange for volunteer hours, he said.

    In addition, the community room provides more training and meeting area, which will help the department accommodate its growing Explorers post, Carmichael said.

    The post was established to help the department recruit its own volunteers from a pool of Gulf Breeze High School students.

    Scott Kasper, 16, the Explorers post's lieutenant, said it will be great to have more room for the post to meet and train.

    "We enjoy learning something besides school work. This shows us how life evolves around the fire department. It's really educational," said Kasper, whose one- year stint at the fire department has inspired him to pursue a career as a professional firefighter.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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