Some things different about Station 21

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By Amy Ryffel-Kragh

Friendship Station 21 may look like an average firehouse, but it is a little different than the others in the county – and not because the staff is temporarily housed in a doublewide mobile home out front.

Throughout the county there are 27 fire stations. Twenty stations house full-time paid firefighters, while the other seven are volunteer stations.

But here’s the wrinkle that makes Friendship different – it has both. “This is very unique in that this particular unit is housed at a full-time station,” said Heather Danenhower, public information officer for Marion County Fire Rescue.

And being different can be a good thing – the Corridor’s fire station received an additional fire truck in October 2007. Although it was used, it was new to the firefighters, and it wasn’t for the paid firefighters. The truck was given to 10 volunteer firefighters that are on call day or night. “It’s our pride and joy,” said Jerry Stroh, volunteer captain at Station 21.

Although one may first assume that volunteer firefighters are not able to do many of the things that paid firefighters do, that is much to the contrary.

Volunteer firefighters are broken into two groups, depending on hours of training completed. With 60 hours of training, the support volunteer firefighters are able to drive the trucks, tankers and assist outside a blaze, but are not allowed to go inside a burning structure.

In addition to the three support volunteers at Station 21, seven of the 10 “combat” firefighters. Stroh said that the combat unit is “very similar to career.” The combat group can go into a fire or burning building and wear air packs – after 140 hours of training.

Something the volunteers are not permitted to do is anything pertaining to medical issues, unless of course, they are certified paramedics. And two of the volunteers at Station 21 are paramedics.

One of the volunteer paramedics is Mike Reilly, a family nurse practitioner at Prompt Primary Care of Ocala, who said he volunteers to give back to the community.

When a call comes in the volunteers are alerted by pager. The station receives about 50 to 60 non-medical calls per month that the Friendship volunteers can be called to. “Their mission is to support the existing structure” of Marion County Fire Rescue, said Danenhower.

The non-medical calls include brush fires, structure fires and auto accidents. “That’s over and above their medical calls,” Stroh said. In 2005-06, Friendship Station 21 received 4,857 calls through 9-1-1 calls – it’s the busiest station in the county.

In addition to helping with fires, the volunteers ensure safety at an accident scene and also help with charity drives. George Boehm, support volunteer at Station 21, said if power lines are down, the volunteers will standby until the area is safe. Also, the group will secure the area at a vehicle accident if needed.

The group has also helps with community projects like Operation: Stuff the Bus.

Sometime in the near future, Station 21 will be getting a new home. The new fire station, which will be near the new S.W. 95th Street Road, will be much larger. “It’s addressing current growth and future growth,” Danenhower said.

In addition, on Feb. 7, a new Marion County Fire Rescue station will break ground on S.W. 49th Avenue. And another new station is slated for construction near County Road 484 and S.R. 200.

For more information about becoming a volunteer firefighter, call 237-2121.

Contact Amy Ryffel-Kragh at 854-3986 or akragh@newsrlsmc.com.