The Delaware Fire Department hosted its first open house Saturday, Oct. 19, for the new Station 303.
Firefighters moved into the station Sept. 26, and since then, at least three have been on duty around the clock at the building at West Central Avenue and Lexington Boulevard.
"I think this location is just really ideal," said EMS Capt. Alan Matteson, who works out of Station 303 daily. "This puts us in a position to serve this area much more efficiently than previously."
The fire department responds to more than 5,000 calls each year. Fire Chief John Donahue said the newest and third fire station's location was chosen not only because of its proximity to Grady Memorial Hospital but because of the high frequency of calls that come from the growing area.
Delaware firefighters are able to reach the industry-standard four-minute response time on only about 52 percent of calls, but Donahue said the new station already has started changing that number for the better.
He said the expectation is to reach or exceed the standard 70 percent of the time because of the new station.
The department's ultimate goal is to reach a four-minute response time on 90 percent of calls.
Not only is the station placed strategically, it is also designed to increase effectiveness.
"We were trying to design it so our guys have immediate access right out to the apparatus at all times," said Donahue, who calls the building "The Horseshoe" because the living and business areas are on opposite sides of the new department, but both open to the garage.
A training room with two large-screen televisions allows for video conferencing among the stations. Donahue said the technology will be beneficial when calls come in during a roll call or training meeting, because firefighters already will be at their designated stations and ready to head out.
Once firefighters reach their vehicles, they can press a yellow button near the garage door to control the traffic light at West Central Avenue and Lexington Boulevard.
The garage holds a medic vehicle, a ladder truck and a new Ford Explorer that Donahue said can be used as a quick-response vehicle so firefighters can keep the larger vehicles on reserve.
The new station will ensure the process of stocking up on medic supplies is easier for everyone in the department, Matteson said.
He said he will transfer the entire medic inventory from Station 301 on South Liberty Street to the new station, which will feature a high-tech medicine storage and inventory unit.
"It's really going to help us manage the supply in a more-efficient manner," said Matteson, who previously worked at Station 302 on Pittsburgh Drive.
The firefighters, whose 24-hour shifts begin at 8 a.m., are enjoying an upgraded living space that's complete with stainless-steel kitchen appliances, a dining table and three reclining chairs pointed at the television.
The firehouse also includes sleeping quarters that can accommodate five firefighters and an upstairs fitness center.
The $2.4 million station, which took 11 months to build, was made possible with funds from a 2010 income-tax increase.
"I think our community understands the need," Donahue said.
The need comes from a significant population increase documented in the 2010 census. It showed that the city's population increased 43 percent from 2000.
In addition to Station 303, the department promised a fourth station, which is planned for Cheshire Road. Donahue said he'd like to break ground on that property in about 18 months.
In 2014, Donahue said the department plans to equip all vehicles with GPS units that can change the 60 traffic lights firefighters could encounter during an emergency run.
Also part of the deal are 18 new firefighters, who would bring the department's staff up to 63 firefighters. Nine have been hired so far.
Although the new station's open house has passed, Matteson said guests always are invited to stop by to meet the firefighters, take tours and ask questions.
"This station is different from our others from the aspect that it really is a neighborhood fire station," he said. "We're right in the middle of a neighborhood and so we've had a lot of people just stop in to see us, which is great."