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New Captiva Fire Station to fit modern needs

By Staff | Apr 8, 2015

Captiva Island Fire District Deputy Chief Jeff Pawul has helped oversee the planning of the construction of the new Fire Station. BRIAN WIERIMA

A once crowded and out-dated fire station will be replaced by a first-rate modern facility for the Captiva Island Fire Department.

The old firehouse, which was built in 1980, was not accommodating to the current needs for the CIFD, which expanded its full-time force and upgraded its fire engine and equipment.

After an interim relocation to the South Seas’ facility across from the resort, near Chadwick Square, the CIFD will be able to move into their new digs sometime in mid-to-late April or early May, with construction nearing completion.

“In 2010, we started the discussion of either remodeling the old facility or just rebuild,” said CIFD Deputy Chief Jeff Pawul. “For what it cost to completely remodel the fire station, it would cost the same to build a new one. We also planned for 50-years in advance, because who knows what this island will look like by then.”

The 1980 firehouse version did not take into consideration of housing up to three full-time staff members, since there was only one who stayed full-time then.

The new Captiva Fire Station is closing in on its opening date, which should be around mid-to-late April or early May. BRIAN WIERIMA

“There was only one full-time person who stayed and the rest were about 20-plus volunteers,” Pawul said. “They also didn’t build the bays big enough for the trucks we have now, so space was a consideration. With all the advances in medicine and procedures, to strictly operate on a voluntarily basis like they did in the past, it’s just not (feasible).”

When the new firehouse opens, the space above the bays will have modern accommodations for at least three of the CIFD members, who need to stay. The rotation is 48 straight hours on and 96 hours off.

“We have three on duty who stay for 48 hours, along with myself and Chief Rich Dickerson,” Pawul said. “So the members who are staying need to make their breakfast, lunch and dinners, along with a training area, laundry and living quarters. They will also have a fitness area, as well now.”

The lower level will have three bay areas for fire engines and capable of housing an EMS unit, along with their staff. The closest EMS unit is at the Sanibel No. 1 station.

Currently, the bays also can accommodate a larger fire ladder truck, which Captiva doesn’t have, but Sanibel does. Again, the design was to plan for 50 years in advance and someday Captiva could house a ladder truck and an EMS.

Another new addition is the Decon Room, where residents or visitors can walk into the station for an emergency or for first aid.

“We’re an ALS (advanced life support) so we can administer IVs, care for cardiac events or treat stingray or jellyfish stings,” Pawul said. “In the old fire station, they would be treated right in the living quarters, which isn’t good for our members or for the patients.

“The Decon Room is a separate area now, with a stretcher, an overhead shower, an eye-wash area and it’s just safer for (patients) to come in and receive aid.”

The front of the facility will be a training area for drills, which will also serve as a community center, which will host committee meetings, CPR classes and doing blood pressure checks on scheduled dates.

“It’s basically going to be a community event room-training area for the department,” Pawul said.

The new design is also fit for the station to be a hurricane command center and will be able to withstand winds up to 170 miles per hour, which is above the Miami Dade Code requirements.

The CIFD staff will still exit the islands during a hurricane, but will return to the fire station, which will act as the command center. The new facility is raised, as well as a power generator in the back which is elevated, as well.

“The building can be designed to handle whatever, but you never know what will arrive with a hurricane,” Pawul said. “It’s the storm surge which is the most dangerous and if we get 10-15 feet of water out here, it’s not going to be safe. But when we can make it back, it will serve as the command center.”

The entire cost from designing to demolition to construction and equipment will be between $3 to 3.5 million. There were two to three public informational meetings held before the decision was made and there was very little to no opposition to the project, Pawul said.

“The response we got out of the meetings was very positive,” he added.

With call volumes rising drastically over the last three years to the big influx of tourists and guests to the islands, having a proper facility to handle all of them was vital.

“Our call volume last year went up 35 percent from year before and this year alone, it’s up 50-percent from 2014,” Pawul said.

Add in the fact that CIFD is the first, second and third option for emergency care or fire fighting capabilities on Captiva, the new fire station will be a welcome addition.

The next step after the full construction of the facility is complete, is to start moving in all the equipment and wiring in the communications systems.

Pawul estimates holding an open house at the new firehouse around mid-to-late May.

The public is also always welcome to stop by the firehouse and to see the engines and see the new facility.

“It’s been a challenge with the construction taking place during the busy season, but we are almost there,” Pawul said. “We are very open to the public, and people bring their kids and stop by to take photos of the fire engines and we’ll be right in the village with open access.”