Gary, Hammond upgrade fire departments - October 15, 2017

Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana

Written by Ed Bierschenk

GARY — Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson was up to the challenge of joining others in sliding down the firehouse pole at a joyous reopening Friday of a long-closed fire station in the Tolleston neighborhood.

The reopening of the fire station is one of a number of capital and equipment improvements being made in both Gary and Hammond, which last week itself celebrated the opening of its first new fire station in decades.

Hammond Fire Chief Jeff Smith said Fire Station No. 8 is the first new fire station any of the current firefighters have seen in Hammond. The last new fire station to open in Hammond was in 1979.

The opening of the new fire station at 6350 Parrish Ave. means the old station about a block away will close. The old station was cramped and didn’t have the modern amenities, including a workout area, that was built into the new station, Smith said.

The new station will provide a higher level of fire protection to residents by having room for a spare fire engine and ambulance. Now, Smith said, if there is a mechanical breakdown with a fire engine or ambulance, emergency workers can switch out to the spare equipment within minutes.

Previously, he said, firefighters had to go to another station to access a spare engine or ambulance, which could take them away from the area for 45 minutes to an hour — or longer if a train blocked their return to their home station.

Gariup Construction, of Gary, in 2016 was awarded the $2,899,500 contract to build the fire station, which Smith said came in under budget. Officials said earlier that they would pay for the structure through an installment purchase agreement using money from its Gateway Allocation Area.

Reopening after a long absence

The day after Hammond celebrated the opening of its new fire station, Gary on Friday celebrated the reopening of its remodeled Fire Station No. 3 at 1200 Roosevelt St.

Gary Fire Chief Paul Bradley said the fire station, across the street from Beveridge Elementary School, had been closed since 2007. Money generated from ambulance fees was used in covering the cost of remodeling the older structure, which included a new roof, new furnishings and other work. He estimated it cost about $200,000 to repair and remodel the facility.

Bradley said the reopening of the fire station will mean quicker response time to fires in that section of the city. He said engines from the station will be among the first to respond to the Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus.

Freeman-Wilson said in addition to the school, hospital and residents, the new fire station will provide added protection for the many older and newer businesses along the 11th Avenue corridor.

“To have this firehouse back on line, right across from the school, in a vibrant neighborhood, means a lot,” she said.

Bradley said he also hoped the Fire Department could start work next year on a new fire station to house firefighters who currently are housed at the Calumet Township Multipurpose Center, 1900 W. 41st Ave. City officials said they plan to use a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 108 loan program to cover the estimated cost of about $3 million for what would be Fire Station No. 5 in the 4900 block of Pennsylvania Street.