Firehouse for the people

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

Charlie Robinson Jr. knows his firefighter father would be smiling if he could have seen the building the Ironton Fire Department now calls home.

Robinson Sr. served on the department from 1928 to 1949 and is one of the many former and current firefighters immortalized on a gray stone memorial in front of the towering new station on the corner of Fourth and Jefferson streets.

"Oh, I believe my father would have thought this was fantastic. He was for any improvements that would help him in his profession, and he did think of it as a profession not just a job," Robinson Jr. said. "He and my brother-in-law Frank Taylor were both proud to be firefighters."

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The younger Robinson strolled through the building and down memory lane Tuesday as the fire department showed off the new building, historic memorabilia and all the equipment to the community that helped make it all possible.

"I think this is wonderful," Robinson said. "I am tickled to death these fellows finally get what they deserve, a facility adequate for them."

The department responds to nearly 600 calls per year, 140 of which are structural fires.

Hundreds of citizens stopped by to see the facility that they helped pay for with the monthly fire fee. The old station was demolished in December 2002. Construction of the new $1.9 million structure took more than a year to complete. The department moved into the building in April.

Paul Glanville walked through the halls looking at old pictures and memorabilia for the first time. As far as Glanville is concerned, the building was money well spent.

"(The building) is really great. I don't mind paying for something like this," he said. "The way they had to live before was terrible. I don't know how they stood it for so many years."

Fire Chief Tom Runyon is quick to point out that the building really belongs to the citizens of Ironton and will hopefully be only the first time they visit as the department continues to increase its community education efforts.

"If we can prevent one fire that we don't have to make a run on, it is worth a lifetime of work," Runyon said.

Many visitors left impressed with the facilities and what it will mean for the protection of the community. The station features four vehicle bays and includes living spaces, a mezzanine, a fitness room, a training area, a hazardous materials decontamination room, community education room, offices and a three-story training tower.

The 10,600-square-foot, one-story building located where the former 100-year-old station was will be able to accommodate as many as 30 firefighters.

Cliff Vanderhoof has called Ironton home for 55 years. After hearing about a new station for years, Vanderhoof was enthralled by the glimpses of fire's past.

"I remember that one right there," he said as he pointed at pictures from a 1979 fire in Rich Oil tanks on First and Jefferson streets. "It melted the paint on the Ironton-Russell Bridge. It burned real hot."

Mayor John Elam opened the day with a short dedication speech.

"I personally want to thank the you the citizens for your support of this new facility," he said. "We believe the lives of the residents of this community are worth far more than the many dollars that were spent building this station."

The department hosted a reception Monday for retirees and will provide tours to several area schools today