DECATUR — Decatur’s oldest working fire station took its last call on Monday.
The doors of Fire Station 3, the small fire station at the entrance of Fairview Park, closed as the fire fighters and their equipment were moved around the corner to the new Fire Station 3 in Fairview Plaza.
Capt. Paige Griffy has answered emergency calls from the old brick building for nearly eight years.
“I’m in charge of this house on this day,” he said. “There’s three shifts and there’s a captain on the other two shifts. We just keep rotating.”
The building is nearly 100 years old, with additions being made throughout the years. According to Griffy, the location was ideal for the neighborhoods, which includes Millikin University and Fairview Park.
“That doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “Usually you have to compromise somewhere.”
The new fire station met the compromise with modern facilities and room for the needed equipment.
“The next best place is right where the new one is going,” Griffy said. “It’s about 500 feet away.”
On Monday, a professional moving company assisted with moving desks, filing cabinets, beds and workout equipment. The fire fighters were responsible for moving their personal items, such as uniforms, food and bedding. The important, life-saving equipment is safely stored with easy access. “Anything we need is on this truck,” said Griffy, with the fire truck inches away.
A base radio is available in all fire houses. If needed, the fire fighters can communicate with the walkie talkie each is provided, according to Griffy.
During the movie, Decatur resident Debbie Reynolds stopped by to show her appreciation to the firefighters.
“I wanted to bring them homemade muffins to tell them 'thank you' for what they do,” she said. “They work so hard. And I love to bake.”
Throughout the years, the older building’s garage was made bigger and deeper. “And this place was shuttered for several years,” Griffy said. “When they decided to reopen it, that’s when they remodeled it.”
Modern-day troubles plagued the fire stations years ago. “They wouldn’t have enough people or enough money, or it wouldn’t be in the right place,” Griffy said about the fire department’s past struggles.
Firefighters can spot an old fire station that has been refurbished into something else. “You can be driving down the road and see a building and say ‘I think that used to be a firehouse’,” Griffy said. “If you look closely it will probably say ‘Engine Something’.”
For Deputy Chief Jim Ohl, the move is bittersweet. He spent more than 18 years of his career at the old station. “I loved it,” he said.
The attraction for Ohl stems from the amount of activity Fire Station 3 experienced. “That is a very busy station,” he said. “It’s very small, so you had to get along. You were almost forced to get along with the crew.”
Ohl worked with the same group of firefighters for nearly 10 years. “That’s a long time with a fire department to have one crew together,” he said. “Every crew that I worked with were hard-working guys.”
The station was built in 1927, originally labeled Station 6. According to Ohl, it was a mirror-image of another fire station on the corner of Clay Street and 22nd Street, which closed operation years ago. The day room, kitchen and training room were in one small room on the main level with a dorm room for sleeping located in the upstairs area. “Everybody has their own bed and their own locker,” Ohl said. “But you hear everybody snoring and any other noises they make in the middle of the night.”
The new station will provide individual rooms for the firefighters and more space for equipment and living areas.
“We’ve been over there several times,” Capt. Tom Colbert said, referring to the new building. “Once we get there and get into a routine, we’ll figure out better ways and better places for things.”
Although Monday was busy for the firefighters, the work isn’t done. “We’re working all the bugs out of the new building,” Colbert said.
After living and working in a 100-year-old building, the crews are ready for a modern touch. “It’s time,” Ohl said about the old station. “Obviously there’s a lot of maintenance that goes with that.”
Ohl admits he doesn’t want to see the crews leave Fire Station 3. “But I’m excited that we were able to have improvements for our guys,” he said.
Plans for another new building, Station 7, are in the works at Chestnut and 36th streets. The fate of the old Station 3 is unknown at this time.
“It’s a great house, a great place to be,” Ohl said.
Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR