By Sean Bowes

The construction of New Tampa’s newest home for local fire fighters is currently under way and if all goes according to plan, Tampa Fire Rescue (TFR) Station No. 22 will roll out its top-of-the-line Advanced Life Support (ALS) truck sometime in mid-February 2012.

Residents may have noticed the walls of the new station going up at 10817 Cross Creek Blvd., a previously undeveloped eight-acre plot of land located just east of the BP gas station on Cross Creek Blvd., less than a mile west of Morris Bridge Rd., which began construction on March 20 of this year. Pillar Construction Group was contracted to build the firehouse on Cross Creek Blvd. for about $2 million, which includes labor, materials and equipment. The project was originally scheduled to take 240 days to complete, however, it looks as if the completion is behind schedule by about two months at our press time.

According to Nick Locicero, Tampa Fire Rescue (TFR) assistant chief of administration and rescue, the new firehouse was built to improve response times for stations No. 21, located almost 3 miles west on Cross Creek Blvd, and Station No. 20, on Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in Tampa Palms, which is 7.3 miles away.

“Station 22 is going to shorten response times for calls in New Tampa,” says Locicero. “You have an entire area (the eastern side of Cross Creek Blvd. and north of that area on Morris Bridge Rd.) closer to the county line that it takes too long for us to get to.”

The new station will, at first, have only one ALS truck with a 12-person team of fire fighters and paramedics serving the station’s surrounding areas, which include Arbor Greene, Cory Lake Isles, Heritage Isles and K-Bar Ranch/Easton Park. The team will work in three shifts around-the-clock, with at least four members ready to jump in the truck at any time. There is room for another truck and more firefighters at the station, too, Locicero says, but TFR will have to see how the budgeting looks in the future. The new station currently houses three bays for emergency vehicles and equipment.

Generally, response times have been good for the current station (No. 21) on Cross Creek Blvd. According to published reports, the station typically arrives on scene within six minutes of receiving a call. If there are two calls taking place at the same time, however, the response nears 15 minutes. TFR Capt. Lonnie Benniefield said that he will be relieved when the new station opens and is able to better serve the northeast section of New Tampa and is able to assist the two other fire houses in the area.

The 8,660-sq.-ft. facility was built as “green as can be,” says Locicero. Contractors were encouraged to use earth-friendly environmental building materials to construct the energy-efficient station. A metal roof, central chiller air-conditioning system and no carpet in the entire building are all efforts to keep the station cool without wasting energy. Also, the landscaping in the area will feature native Florida plants.

Most of the funding for Station No. 22 comes from a $1.6-million grant from U.S. President Barrack Obama’s American Recovery & Reinvestment Act in 2009.The City of Tampa purchased the lot two years before Tampa won the recovery grant for the for the under-construction station in 2007 for $750,000.

The last fire station that was built in the New Tampa area was station No. 21 in 2001 on a 3-acre plot of land donated by Markborough Florida, the developers at Hunter’s Green.

On November 23, Danny Herrerd, a driver/engineer for Station 21, took a walk around the under-construction firehouse with some New Tampa firefighters and said he was impressed with how the new firehouse is coming along.

“It looks similar to our station on the outside and it’s about the same size,” Herrerd said. “But, you can tell the layout will be different on the inside. I’m looking forward to seeing it when it’s finished.”

The City of Tampa also owns 2.2 acres of property on Bruce B. Downs Blvd. near County Line Rd., which will eventually be home to TFR Station 23, New Tampa’s next fire station, to serve communities and businesses in New Tampa which border Wesley Chapel, such as Grand Hampton, The Hammocks and Live Oak Preserve. However, there is not yet any money budgeted for the construction of that firehouse.

There will likely be a ribbon cutting, which the community is invited to attend, at TFR Station No. 22 on Cross Creek Blvd. in mid-February, when the construction is expected to be completed, says Locicero.

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