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Volunteer station ready for renovation

A $439,600 expansion will include better sleeping conditions for the 30 Lutz volunteers.

By BILL COATS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2001


LUTZ -- The volunteer fire station is scheduled for $439,600 in renovations beginning in a month, a change that will make it roomier for firefighters and fire trucks alike.

The expansion will give the Lutz Volunteer Fire Department a larger bunk area and will free up space in the truck bays. It also will allow Hillsborough County Fire Rescue to move its two-person rescue unit, including the truck, into the fire station from a modular building next door.

"We've been looking for this expansion now -- goodness -- for 10 years," said Jerry Goins, president of the Lutz Volunteer Fire Association, which oversees the firefighters. "It just takes time. We're really glad to see it getting started."

Division Chief James Olsen, the county fire department's liaison to volunteer departments like Lutz's, said the renovations are part of an ongoing program of work at Hillsborough's 35 fire stations.

The Lutz job is to be completed by Tampa's Nelco Construction Inc. by next spring. Olsen said the most visible change may be the addition of a hip roof. "As you drive by, you won't notice that big of a change."

For the station's 30 volunteers, the nicest impact will be better sleeping conditions: eight twin-bed cubicles instead of the two bunk beds, Goins said.

The department recently increased its minimum around-the-clock staffing to three firefighters as the community and the number of calls has grown. Goins said the two top bunks haven't been popular with firefighters, who know they may be jolted into action at any hour by an alarm.

"I've actually seen a guy trying to come out of the bottom bunk and a guy on the top comes down on his shoulders," Goins said.

He said the cubicles also will make it easier to tolerate a more common problem: snorers.

"We've had guys yank their mattresses off their beds and take them to the kitchen," he said.

Although the garage area, called the "apparatus room" by firefighters, won't be enlarged, it will be made more usable.

Climate-controlled equipment storage rooms are to be added along the eastern wall, accommodating equipment that now shares space with fire engines.

Currently, firefighters' gear hangs on the wall, exposing it to truck fumes. Olsen said the storage rooms will better protect the gear, which can cost up to $2,000 per firefighter and last five years.

Closed walls on the north end of the room are to be replaced with garage doors, matched later with an enlarged driveway. That will allow trucks to exit six doors instead of the current four, and will help accommodate the addition of the rescue truck from next door.

A separate office and quarters are planned for the rescue team in space that currently functions as an office and television room for the firefighters.

Goins said the rescue folks will be welcome in the bigger station. "We all work close together anyway, so I think it will be better."

- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 226-3469.

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