Closed to the public because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the new Reynoldsburg Community Center YMCA is serving as a temporary fire station.

The Truro Township Fire Department separated a group of first responders, moving them into the community center at 1520 Davidson Drive, beginning March 24 with the first overnight shift March 25. Five or six firefighter/paramedics will be stationed at the Y for each shift.

Firefighters from the township's two stations had been sharing living quarters and operating out of a single location -- Station 162, 6305 E. Livingston Ave. -- since construction began in 2018 on the new station at 6900 E. Main St.

O'Neil's Tents on March 24 put up a large, white "portable building" to cover the fire truck and medic vehicle assigned to Station 161.

The $30 million community center opened in late January. It was closed March16 when the YMCA of Central Ohio temporarily suspended operations.

"These steps are being taken to better serve the community and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus amongst our firefighter/paramedics," fire Chief Jeff Sharps said. "There will be no disruption in emergency services during this transition; however, you will now see fire and EMS equipment stationed at the Reynoldsburg Community Center YMCA.

"From a technical standpoint, it is station 161; it's fully connected with the other station and the dispatch center and gets dispatched exactly the same as existing fire stations. Technology allowed us to stand up a remote fire station incredibly quickly," Sharps said. "If you would have told me we could move in and operate out of there in six -- two of which were Saturday and Sunday, so we did it in four business days -- I would have never believed it. The YMCA has bent over backwards for us."

The plan was put into motion March 19 after the department provided a situational report to city officials, Sharps said.

The city and YMCA "graciously wanted to help" and officials decided to move six crew members and their bunks and supplies to the community center, Sharps said.

"It was an out-of-the-box request," Sharps said. "Mayor (Joe) Begeny asked me what he could to help the fire department, and I asked if the community-center YMCA would be available as a temporary station to separate our two crews. An engine and medic will be stationed at this temporary location. The bunks and supplies were moved, and the YMCA has a full kitchen to allow our firefighters to prepare meals.

"Our crews are doing everything in their power to stay healthy for their families and to serve the community," he said.

There is no additional cost to the city; the township is paying the Y $500 monthly to cover utilities, Sharps said.

"It's a perfect location -- access to showers, work out equipment, centrally located -- all the major advantages," Begeny said. "The YMCA will be home to the Truro Township Fire Department until the crisis is over or the Main Street Fire House is complete.

"The best of Reynoldsburg has been on display during the COVID-19 situation. Working together with Chief Sharps and the Truro Fire Department and ... the YMCA was a great example of how we can find solutions to best serve our community."

The $3.9 million Station 161 is expected to open this summer.

Construction was delayed last year when the station's general contractor, Palmetto Construction, LLC, defaulted on the project.

When finished, the 16,471-square-foot building will have three bays and living quarters for up to 11 firefighters per shift, a training room and more than 700 square feet of administrative offices.

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