By Josh Letner
Almost one year after the May 22 tornado destroyed two of Joplin’s five fire stations, Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean and Fire Chief Mitch Randles cut a ceremonial ribbon Saturday, opening a new station at 5302 W. 32nd St.
The new station, which was planned before the tornado and funded by a 2006 voter-approved Public Safety Tax of a half cent, gives the department a secure location to store some of its equipment following last year’s destruction of fire stations on 15th Street and Maiden Lane.
“Since the tornado, we’ve been very stretched for space,” Randles said “We’ve been storing things anywhere we could, so this gives us a little bit of a break on that and it gets us into a permanent facility and lets us store some equipment in a more secure environment until we get the other two stations rebuilt.”
Randles also said that firefighters who staff the two stations that were destroyed have been living in temporary quarters since last summer and the new station allows crews to rotate through and periodically experience the new building’s spacious quarters. Fifteen firefighters will eventually be stationed there.
“It is a large facility, and many of the firefighters who have been living in the temporary facilities for the last year have moved out here and they think it is enormous compared to what they are used to,” he said.
The $1.86 million fire station has 9,600 square feet of space and was constructed using green technologies that allow the building to meet LEED Silver requirements for energy efficiency. The fire station contains six bedrooms, an exercise room and a decontamination room.
Randles says it is the first new fire station built in Joplin in 30 years and was built with an eye toward expansion.
Growth also was on the mind of Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr Saturday, who said he sees the new station not only as a sign that the community intends to rebuild, but also to continue growing.
“I think it’s significant that, not only are we rebuilding our community after the tornado, but we’re also providing for future growth of the city with the construction of a facility like this,” he said.
Rohr said city officials are still evaluating possible locations to replace the two fire stations that were destroyed last May.
The Joplin Fire Department currently provides emergency services for a 45 square-mile area, employs 95 firefighters and has six stations, although two of those still must be rebuilt following the tornado.