Fire station construction nears completion

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By The Staff

This year marks a significant milestone in Marion County Fire Rescue’s (MCFR) history. Employees and county commissioners are celebrating the department’s 30th anniversary.

Our recent acquisition of the ambulance service Oct. 1, 2008 and several fire station construction projects have kept us very busy. But we’re committed to doing whatever it takes to improve emergency services for our residents. In fact, many of our current initiatives will specifically benefit those living along the State Road 200 corridor.

Liberty Station 32

The dust has cleared. The property is landscaped, and the construction equipment is gone. MCFR Liberty Station 32 is ready to open, and department leaders, employees and county commissioners are preparing to celebrate the station’s grand opening March 5.

Liberty Station 32 wasn’t originally part of MCFR’s 10-year-plan to improve emergency response. But Marion County commissioners and fire rescue leaders anticipated that future growth would warrant an additional station to serve southwest Marion County.

They were right. After studying population density and 911 call data in the area, commissioners refocused MCFR’s 10-year-plan to ensure that residents in southwest Marion County receive the fire rescue response they deserve and expect.

Liberty Station 32 will significantly improve emergency response to neighborhoods such as Marco Polo Village, Whispering Pines, Forest Glen, Sun Valley, Majestic Oaks, Cherrywood Estates and JB Ranch, among others. The station will also provide back-up emergency response to Friendship and Marion Oaks.

The two-bay 8,474 sq. ft. station is expected to house 15 full-time dual-certified firefighter/paramedics and firefighter/EMTs, a fire engine and a transport rescue.

The station is named Liberty in recognition of the military men and women who have served our country and preserved our freedoms.

Ray Lloyd, Jr. Station 31

Meanwhile, the walls are up, the roof is on and the windows are installed at Ray Lloyd, Jr. Station 31 off C.R. 484. This station, named after a volunteer firefighter who died in the line of duty, also wasn’t part of MCFR’s original 10-year-plan. But again, growth dictated the need.

The 10,536 sq. ft. three-bay fire station will provide primary response to Florida Highlands and the State Road 200 and County Road 484 corridors, as well as back-up service to Friendship, Marion Oaks, Meadowood Farms, Rainbow Springs and Dunnellon Fire Rescue. Money generated from the fire assessment will pay for the $2.3 million project.

The station grand opening, anticipated this summer, will commemorate the memory of Ray Lloyd, Jr. In February 2001, Lloyd, of Florida Highlands Station 5, responded to a mobile home fire and started to hook up his tanker truck to a fire engine, when he suddenly fell face first to the ground.

His crews thought he had tripped, but sadly he suffered a heart attack and never regained consciousness. Lloyd, 65, died that day, becoming MCFR’s first and only line of duty death. Following his funeral, Friendship’s Engine 21 carried Lloyd’s casket to his final resting place at Good Shepherd Memorial Gardens in Ocala.

Friendship Station 21

Friendship Station 21 has walls, a roof, concrete engine bays and its kitchen counter. Firefighters housed at the current station on S. R. 200 are eagerly awaiting the new station’s completion. That’s because they’ve operated from a mobile home since 2005 because their station, formerly a turkey processing plant, was deemed unlivable due to mold.

Friendship Station 21 is MCFR’s busiest firehouse, logging 5,356 emergency calls during the 2007-08 fiscal year.

Fire and elected officials knew several years ago that they would need to relocate and rebuild Friendship Station 21 to serve the needs of the residents living along the Corridor. However, finding suitable land for a new, larger station created challenges. But in October of 2007, commissioners purchased 2.5 acres from developer Ken Colen for $159,200 to rebuild the station on S.W. 90th Street near the new Lowe’s.

The new three-bay 9,708 sq. ft. station will cost about $2 million to build. Money collected from the fire assessment and impact fees will fund the project.

Friendship Station 21 firefighters provide primary response to the Friendship area and S. R. 200 corridor as well as back up service to Marion Oaks, Golden Ocala, Shady and the City of Ocala.

With so much progress, we certainly look forward to what the future holds. As always, we thank our residents for their support and patience, and we hope you’ll celebrate the grand opening of Liberty Station 32 with us on March 5.

Liberty Station 32 is at 11350 S.W. 49th Ave. The grand opening is Thursday, March 5, at 10 a.m. and open house at 10:30.

Captain Pamela Driggers serves the Southwest District for Marion County Fire Rescue. You may call her at 291-8000 or e-mail pamela.driggers@marioncountyfl.org.