ALTUS, Okla._The City of Altus is one step closer to beginning construction for a new city fire station.
The city approved a $290,000 land purchase during last Tuesday's Municipal Authority meeting. Officials have decided to put the new station at Park Lane and Broadway after a station location study was conducted, which took the increased development of northeast Altus into consideration.
The fire station, along with other updates like remodeling City Hall, was included in a project called MAPS, which voters passed in 2008. That $34 million project originally called for renovations of the old station, such as widening space inside the bays and increasing the height of the outside doors. However, architects who came in to look at the building decided those renovations were not structurally possible, which prompted the search for a new site.
Officials are still trying to figure out the future of the old station. Altus Mayor Jack Smiley said that possible decisions to sell it or use it for storage haven't been made, and likely won't for a while. But when it comes to moving out, Mayor Smiley says it's time.
Sirens have been a common sound near Central Fire Station since 1956. It's also where Mayor Smiley used to spend a lot of his time at work. Mayor Smiley began as fireman in Altus in 1977 and was chief of the department from 1994 to 1997. He says a new station brings a lot of perks with it, but it will be an emotional goodbye.
"It will be bittersweet. I know we need a new facility. The upgrades are going to be great with classrooms and a living area for the firefighters. It will be bitter because that was my home for 20 years," Mayor Smiley said.
On a high-fire day, response time and quickness becomes vital. Especially dealing with brush fires, like the one near Tamarack Road, where homes and business are nearby. Mayor Smiley says a rush like this caused plenty of problems.
"The main downfall of that station is that it would just not hold the trucks we put in there. The ladder wagon is so tall that it's right at the ceiling. And coming out of the station, if they are going too fast, it actually hits the door on the way out," Mayor Smiley explained.
The concrete pillars also made it challenging for the bigger trucks to get in and out. After architects decided the old building couldn't be renovated with taller doors and wider bays to meet current day needs, the decision to relocate near a four-lane intersection was made.
"At this point, it made no sense to remodel that station, or to tear it down and start over. If you're going to do that, that isn't the right location," Mayor Smiley said.