HOUSTON – It’s spring and dirtwork at the corner of Jefferson and Harrington streets will soon sprout a new fire station for the city.
The Houston Board of Aldermen teamed up with the Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors last week and used county equipment to clear and grade the lot just south of the Square in Houston and adjacent to the current Houston Fire Station.
“They let us use their excavator and Ricko (Nichols, Street Department Superintendent) dug it up,” said Houston Mayor Stacey Parker. “The county also let us use two of their trucks to haul off the dirt.”
The site will now see a concrete slab poured and a 50-by-52 foot metal building constructed to house three city fire trucks.
“Right now we’ve got three trucks that we can’t put under a roof,” said Houston Fire Department Captain Jonathan Blankenship. “We’ve got a brush truck and tanker that are out in the weather. We’ve also got a pumper that is being repaired and when we get it back we really won’t have anywhere to put it.”
Blankenship said fire trucks must be kept above freezing so as not to spring gaskets and ruin pumps in the winter. He said sunshine in the summer degrades hoses, rubber and plastic.
“Fire trucks are a major investment for any department,” said Blankenship. “They will last a lot of years if they are maintained, driven correctly and kept inside.”
Parker said the city borrowed money to get construction of the fire station started and is looking to do much of the work themselves.
The three-bay building will face south and trucks will roll onto Harrington Street.
Houston recently took delivery of a new mini-pumper that has taken much of the workload off larger pumpers.
Blankenship has repeatedly said 60 percent of the department’s calls are medical related and responding with smaller trucks is more economical and leaves the tankers and pumper ready to respond to true fire calls.
The new fire station will not immediately improve the city’s fire rating.
Houston has a Class 7 fire rating. Moving to a Class 6 would not dramatically reduce insurance rates for homeowners and would probably require to the city to hire additional personnel, build and staff a new fire station, up grade water lines and therefore raise taxes.
Houston currently has six full-time firefighters with two per 24-hour shift. The department also has about 20 volunteers.
Dirt removed from the Harrington Street site was used to fill in a ditch next to the Kids Park at Joe Brigance Park.