Eighteen months after breaking ground, the Odessa Fire Company will finally be showing off its new $4.5 million firehouse to the public this weekend.
The fire company will hold an open house at its newly-reconstructed Station 24 on Main Street from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, followed by a 3:30 p.m. ceremony to mark the official opening of the building and the addition of the company's three newest vehicles.
"It's the first time we'll be able to house that equipment, because the old station just didn't have room for them," Fire Company President R.G. Whittington said this week. "It didn't have room for a lot of things. But now that the new building is complete, it's a night-and-day difference and we're very pleased with how it turned out."
First built in 1936, the original Station 24 and adjoining hall were added onto at least five times over the years, Whittington said.
Yet for decades, the one-story, 10,000-square-foot building was too cramped to properly accommodate the fire company's 150 members, including its 45 active volunteer firefighters and all of their equipment.
Even after the construction of a Boyds Corner substation – known as Station 4 – in the mid-1990s, the fire company's outdated headquarters proved problematic.
"The building was so old, it didn't even have sprinklers," Whittington said. "There were no showers and no bunk rooms. We had three and four officers crammed into cubicles. Some of our vehicles had to be parked sideways behind other vehicles and we had to pull the engines outside before our guys could get on them."
Fire Chief Scott Brown said even the bay doors on the old station were too small.
"We actually had to have all of our trucks built to a certain size just so we could get them in and out of the building," he said.
After a decade of planning, the fire company chose to demolish a large portion of the existing structure and rebuild on its footprint, rather than move outside of town, Whittington said.
In the interim, the fire company housed two fire engines and its ambulance in an airplane hangar on Harris Road owned by John Amoritz.
"He refused to accept any compensation from us, and we're very thankful for his assistance," Whittington said. "Because of him, the process was seamless for the public and there was no interruption in service. It's been a little tougher on our membership, but we made it through. None of this would have been possible without their hard work and dedication."
Designed by Fearn-Clendaniel Architects of Wilmington and built by i3a Construction Management of Smyrna, the new two-story, 23,000-square-foot fire station includes a larger apparatus bay with bigger doors, a separate ambulance bay, a half-dozen modern offices, 11 bunks in separate rooms for men and women, a meeting room, shower rooms, a fitness training room, a mail room, a TV room, an intercom system that broadcasts emergency radio channels throughout the building, wireless internet, and additional locker space.
Page 2 of 2 - "It also includes enough space for us to expand in the future," Whittington said. "Going back to my great-grandfather, my family have been members of this fire department since 1926, so this is something I'm proud to have been involved with and I don't think we could have been happier with the result."
While the fire company was able to pay off about $1 million of the construction cost, the remainder is being financed, with the bulk of that funding coming from donations, community support and the rental of its newly-remodeled Memorial Hall.
Assistant Hall Manager Lorretta Getty said she's gotten a lot of interest in the modernized space since the station received its certificate of occupancy in June.
"We're trying to get away from the typical firehouse beef-and-beer and make it a place where people want to hold their upscale events," she said. "We also want to be a one-stop shop for brides planning their weddings, so when they come here to rent the space, we can connect them with our network of caterers, florists and photographers."
On Oct. 25, the hall will host a masquerade ball from 8 p.m. to midnight. The $50 tickets, sold only in advance up until Oct. 18, will include food, alcohol, a deejay and live music. For more information, visit squareup.com/market/odessa-fc-memorial-hall/masquerade-ball.
On Nov. 3, the hall also will be hosting the Bridal Show of Odessa from noon to 3 p.m., featuring dozens of vendors, food and entertainment. For more information about that event, visit odessabridal.com
For more information about renting Memorial Hall, call 378-8929 or visit ofc424.com/hallrental.cfm.