GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Soon, Gulfport will have a fire station designed by firefighters and built by firefighters. On Tuesday, the city council voted to transfer money left over from another construction project to buy materials for a new Station 8 on Old Highway 49.
That station is coming down, and firefighters tell me they are happy to see it go. In fact, they want this new station so badly, they've volunteered to provide the labor themselves.
Gulfport firefighters said for decades, it has been one problem after another at Station 8. They said it was built by Harrison County to be used by one part-time volunteer, but since annexation, it's manned by three full-time Gulfport firefighters.
"We've had to make changes in it so it could accommodate three people out here all the time. Before, it was just one person," said Lt. Stanley Butler, who is the project manager for the construction. "They've done changes over the years, a few to make it somewhat livable for us. Over a period of time, the metal building is starting to leak. We've just kind of been chasing it to keep it repaired, because the county, they owned the building. The city couldn't put any money into the building."
Gulfport Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt says now, the county is turning over the property to the city, so $55,000 left over from construction of another fire station will be used to buy building materials for a new Station 8. Firefighters have volunteered to do the construction.
"It's really gratifying for me to see that the guys are buying into the thing that we're doing and that we're trying to make things better for them," Beyerstedt said. "It excites me that we don't have to brow beat people to do things. They come to me with ideas of projects they want to do, and this was one of those. The people at this fire station came to me and said if I can find the money for them, they wanted to do the work, and that excites me."
The firefighters can't wait to break a sweat.
"We're going to totally tear the whole metal building down, put all new metal on it. Tear all this living quarters down. Do all that," said Butler. "We will get to build it the way we want, because we're doing it. The other stations were designed by architects, and we've basically designed this one. The guys that are at this station will be doing primarily most of the work, but we've had guys at other stations that have volunteered to come and help us when they can."
Firefighters said in the design, they included an added bedroom and a shop area. Station 8 handles upkeep of fire extinguishers for the entire department.
"This station is responsible for doing our fire extinguishers, so that's the purpose of the shop around back," Butler said. "I've always had to do them outside, because we've never had a place to do them, and they are kind of messy. So, that will be nice to have a shop that will be air conditioned where we can store all our stuff back there."
Firefighters believe a better working environment will produce better workers.
"If the guys look forward to coming to a nice place, morale just changes all the way around, I think," said Butler.
Gulfport firefighters said they'll work on the building in between calls while they're on duty and come up and do some work while they're off duty. They are still figuring out where they will work while the new station is under construction.