HARRISONBURG — With construction helmets on and shovels at the ready, Rockingham County officials and members of Hose Company No. 4 gathered at the future site for the Port Republic Road Emergency Response Station on Wednesday to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony.
Hose Company No. 4 was founded in 1890, becoming the oldest existing fire department in Rockingham County.
The station off Port Republic Road near Sentara RMH Medical Center was dedicated in 1985 with the potential to expand and grow with the county, according to Hose Company No. 4 President Libby Orebaugh.
“We are excited to be working with the county for this expansion,” Orebaugh said.
The new fire station made its way to expansion after a unanimous vote by the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors late last year.
The county was looking at a new facility due to Hose Company No. 4 station no longer meeting the needs for housing equipment and volunteers.
On Dec. 12, the board approved funding for the estimated $5 million, 27,000-square-foot station, which will have enough room to hold the company’s equipment and space for volunteers, according to Rockingham County Fire and Rescue Chief Jeremy Holloway.
“It has been a long time coming,” Holloway said. “We will have a better opportunity to serve the citizens now.”
Built in the mid-1980s, the company’s current 2,000-square-foot space has made for a cramped living facility, according to fire officials. With a lack of space for volunteers to stay during their shift, they are forced to answer calls from home — increasing the response time.
“Our call load has gone up over the past couple of years,” Holloway said. “We had to ask ‘How can we best suit the station here.’”
One engine and one ladder truck are currently stored at the station, leaving other equipment to be stored outside or at the county storage building in Pleasant Valley.
The new facility, being built adjacent to the current station, will house a command unit, boats for water rescue, training rooms, living quarters for paid staff and volunteers, workout facility, media room and a community room that can serve as an emergency shelter, according to Holloway.
Construction is expected to take roughly a year to complete, with an expected completion in March 2020.
The current station will remain in service until it is no longer deemed viable, according to the county.
Rockingham County Supervisor Bill Kyger said the groundbreaking ceremony was a “very important event for the county,” noting that the department is the oldest in the county.
“This [station] will be the first of several types of events in the next several years,” Kyger said. “This will establish the model for everybody to use.”