Sept. 12, 2004 — It's official. According to Ira Williams, St. Thomas deputy fire chief, the Dorothea Fire Station will be manned around the clock beginning Monday. The reopening returns basic fire service to Northside residents who have lived without this protection since the station closed in November 2003.
The Virgin Islands' 18 newest firefighters, who graduated Friday from a 10-week training course, were hard at work Sunday putting the finishing touches on a newly renovated building that will soon become a home away from home for some.
Williams said a lot of work has been done over the two months fire personnel have spent getting the neglected station back into fighting form. "Clearing out all the bush was the hardest part," he said. Williams also pointed to a shiny new maroon-colored roof that was built to replace a leaking one. "We did all the work up here ourselves," he said.
The station will be staffed 24 hours a day by crews of four, Williams explained, saying that with the Dorothea station open, firefighters will be able to "respond to emergencies on the Northside within minutes." Prior to Monday's anticipated opening, Northside residents have relied on responders from the Charlotte Amalie fire station who could take as long as 35 minutes to reach the scene of a fire emergency.
For now, the station will have one pumper truck with a capacity of "around 350 gallons," according to Williams, who said the Dorothea unit will still require backup from the town station in most instances.
Glenn Francis, acting fire chief, predicted Monday's opening in a meeting held last week with members of the Northside Civic Organization.
The NCO has been focused for some time on drawing public and legislative attention to the dangerous lack of fire and other emergency services for Northside and West End neighborhoods.
"It has been a long battle, but we're glad to see it open," Ann Durante-Arnold, NCO president, said at last week's meeting,
Looking ahead, Williams said he hopes the future will bring Emergency Medical Services and police to the same property. He also said that firemen posted to the station will be conducting daily pre-planning exercises where they will be riding through neighborhoods, learning addresses and making preparations to speed response time.
Anyone may visit the fire station at any time to see the facility and meet the fire personnel. "We have an open-house policy 24/7," Williams said.
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