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Two fire stations could combine to be one in St. Augustine

4:51 PM, Aug 26, 2013   |    comments
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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The City of St. Augustine's fire chief and St. Johns County's fire chief are talking about closing two aging stations and building one joint city/county fire station on Anastasia Island.

The stations being considered are the city's fire station #2 across from the Alligator Farm and the county station #7 by the St. Augustine Beach pier.

The idea is then to move the staff and equipment into a modern facility that would be built on city-owned property on State Road 312 near Mizell Road, St. Augustine Fire Chief Mike Arnold explained.

Each of the two stations has its issues. St. Augustine station #2 sits on a tricky intersection and curve. Some speeding vehicles have even slammed into the station or into the trees nearby.

The county's station #7 is next to the ocean, and strong hurricanes could pose a threat to the station and people inside, Arnold noted.

He added that both stations are also small and outdated, dating back to the 1950's.

David Udziele lives just a couple miles from St. Augustine #2.

"I think it's a good idea because the fire stations are in bad locations," Udziele

"It doesn't make sense to spend the money to build two stations and have them be a mile and a quarter apart," Arnold said.  

He estimates it costs about $800,000 to build a new fire station now, so building only one could save money. It would also enable the city's fire trucks and the county's rescue units to respond together.

"They might be a couple minutes longer but you're going to get all the people who can do something," Arnold said.  

The State Road 312 site is in an area where population growth is expected, Arnold noted, but he stressed that the idea is only in the discussion stages.

"We're going to take our time and work this out," Arnold said.  

Rita Neumann, who lives near the city's station #2, is not worried about added response time, but she doesn't think combining the stations is wise. 

"Combining the two is like putting all your eggs in one basket. What if a storm comes through and wipes out the station?"

However, Udziele supports the measure fully.

"It wouldn't be that far away if they're planning on putting it on 312," he said. "It probably would take an extra minute to get here."

Currently, the ISO rating in St. Augustine is 3, which is good. Arnold said if the consolidation plan negatively impacts that rating, it won't go through. 

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