From the outside, it's all bricks with no signs or flying flags yet at the new Bonita Springs Fire-Rescue Station Four, but once inside, the building teems with life as staff unpack and construction workers put last minute touches on the newly opened facility.
After a number of construction delays, the administrative staff is finally moving into the new headquarters station.
Offices are being relocated this week and the 40-person staff, which includes administration, fire prevention, training, public information and education, officially occupied the new building July 17.
Firefighters moved into the back side of the building last month, after spending months working from their fire engine in a parking lot and then to a small, unfinished bunker room at the new station.
The official groundbreaking for the 30,000-square-foot building was held Aug. 23, 2003. The building sat vacant for the past year and a half while construction issues were being resolved.
Upon walking into the front entrance of the new facility, a grand reception desk awaits a receptionist yet to be hired. Behind the desk women cleaned future trophy cases Monday afternoon. On the front walls, on either side of the entrance, two framed flags hang that list all the names of those lost in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, courtesy of Brandana Inc., a local contracting company, who helped build the station. One flag lists the names of the fire rescue personnel lost; the other lists the names of civilians lost in the attack.
To the right is the fire prevention wing where fire inspectors, the fire marshal, assistant fire marshal, and plans examiner offices are located. The fire chief, assistant fire chief, three deputy fire chiefs and human resources offices are located on the left wing of the new building.
Straight behind the front receptionist desk is a large training room, which will also be used as a command post during disasters such as hurricanes and brush fires, for the South Division of Lee County, which includes Bonita Springs, Estero and San Carlos Park fire rescue staff. In addition, the classroom/auditorium will hold classes, training sessions and monthly board meetings.
In the past, half of the Bonita Springs Fire-Rescue staff was located three miles north of Station One on Old 41, while the rest were located in three small old homes behind Station One.
"It's nice because everyone finally has their own individual offices and are in one location," said Debbi Redfield, public information officer.
Fire Marshal Mark Goodman said he's pleased to be in the new facility.
"It's always exciting to make a move and have a new environment," Goodman said. "(We're) able to offer more and better services to the public. Definite advantage to having everyone under one roof."
Goodman has been fire marshal for two years, but he has been with the department nine years. Monday afternoon Goodman was almost unpacked, except for a few books and files to put away.
According to Redfield, construction of fire facilities in Bonita Springs is not quite finished yet. The station on Old 41 will stay put, but the administration buildings, which Redfield said are basically just old houses, will be torn down to make the station more functional for the firefighters there. Redfield said they have outgrown their kitchen, and currently sleep in one large bunk room, instead of individual bunk rooms, like the new Station Four.
One of the old houses out back of the fire station will accommodate the firefighters during construction, while the two other houses will be torn down to complete renovations.
A grand opening for Station Four is being planned for the upcoming months. The station is located at 27701 Bonita Grande Drive, just east of I-75 off Bonita Beach Road. All phone numbers for the station will remain unchanged.