November 27, 2019
(Courtesy: Florida Times-Union)
A new fire station to handle Cecil Commerce Center’s commercial and business traffic as well as the booming growth around it celebrated its grand opening in June.
Fire Station 73 at 5845 Aviation Ave. will soon be neighbors to the backup 911 emergency call center next door for Jacksonville Fire and Rescue as well as the Sheriff’s Office. The station’s ribbon cutting came three days after a groundbreaking for Engine and Rescue 61 at Old Middleburg and Collins roads, fire officials said.
Station 73 is now the primary fire and rescue responder for 3,674 homes and 110 businesses in that Westside community, sites where average fire engine response time had been about 7½ minutes, interim Fire Chief Keith Powers said.
“When we opened, we knocked about 3½ minutes off the engine’s response time, so they will be right in the average, where we need to be,” Powers said. “When the rescue went in service, the average response time had been 11 minutes Thursday. This morning that dropped to 4½ minutes. That is huge when you are talking about someone involved in a wreck. Those minutes are very important.”
The 11,000-square-foot station’s new four-bay facility just south of Normandy Boulevard and 103rd Street is just inside an entrance to the business park and airport. It received the fire engine that was at Station 56 next to the runways at the 23,000-acre Cecil Commerce Center, as well as a new rescue unit formerly housed at Station 17 on Huron Street.
Along with runways and hangars handling military and private aircraft including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Florida Department of Agriculture and Forestry Service, the sprawling center is also home to Boeing and Pratt and Whitney maintenance facilities and Florida State College at Jacksonville’s aviation program there.
The City Council approved an interlocal agreement with the Jacksonville Aviation Authority to transfer the land to the city, approving $3.78 million for fire station construction in late June 2017. A $1.6 million Florida Department of Transportation grant helped in the construction.
Fire officials said the new backup 911 center was a priority in the mayor’s budget, needed in case a disaster such as a hurricane or flooding impacted the Sheriff’s Office’s downtown 911 center. The center will be staffed full-time and used to train 911 operators and dispatchers. It will cost another $12 million, set to open in a few months after its equipment is installed, Powers said.
Along with Station 73 came Tuesday’s groundbreaking for Engine and Rescue 61, to ultimately serve the Argyle and Oakleaf areas, fire officials said. The new Station 61 is next to a library on city-owned land, its fire truck and rescue unit running out of Station 52 at 6130 Collins Road until the new facility is done in early February.
“In our business, minutes mean lives. It’s a big, big deal when we can cut that in half,” he said.
Both new stations will also drop their zones’ ISO fire protection insurance rating from 10 to 1, Powers said. A high ISO insurance rating basically means no fire protection within 5 miles as well, so averaging about a 50 percent reduction in homeowner premiums “is real money in real people’s pockets,” Powers said.