Arkadelphia holds fire station open house

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published December 6, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 5, 2012 at 10:41 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Lt. Marty Adair cuts a fire hose in two with the Jaws of Life during the grand opening of the new fire station in downtown Arkadelphia on Nov. 29.

— Jimmy Bolt, Arkadelphia city manager, pointed out the artwork in the new Arkadelphia Fire Department Headquarters during an open house at the new facility at Caddo and Sixth streets.

In the offices of the Fire Department and the living quarters for the firefighters are scenes of mountains, trees and pastures, through which rivers and streams flow.

“We wanted a peaceful, nice environment for our people when they are between calls,” Bolt said, walking from the kitchen to an area with comfortable-looking couches and a large television. “These men run into burning buildings and cut injured people out of cars. They need a good atmosphere when they return.”

After about a year of planning and 11 months of building, firefighters moved into the building in October, and a ceremonial open house was held Nov. 29.

The city manager said the city’s new main fire station came in on time and enough under budget to pay for furnishings and artwork.

“It all came to within a few hundred dollars of the estimate,” Bolt said.

While this building was designed and approved in 2010, Fire Chief Ricky Arnold said, he had been talking about a new building since 2005.

“It was on my agenda for a long time,” he said as the station was being built. “I wanted to plan for the future. We expect this station to last 50 years.”

Actually the need for a new fire station downtown in Arkadelphia has been a topic since a tornado struck the city 15 years ago in 1997.

“We started to talk about a new station house back in 1998,” said Dick Randolph, a former member of the Arkadelphia Board of Directors and now a director-elect.

“Every morning when I pull up to the corner,” Chief Arnold told the gathering at the open house, “I just smile. I am proud of this building.”

Instead of the traditional ribbon-cutting, the Fire Department used a length of fire hose that was cut by Lt. Marty Adair of the department’s rescue unit, using the Jaws of Life, equipment used to cut through wrecked vehicles to reach people trapped inside.

In a tour of the facilities, the chief pointed out several of the new facility’s features that he enjoys.

“We can open all three of the front bay doors for the equipment with the push of one button,” he said. “We have a Simple Saver roof and ceiling that saves energy, and it really helps keep things quiet in here.”

The “well-insulated” building should cost the city less in utilities, because of the new roof, even though the station is larger than the old one, Arnold said.

Fire Station No. 1 also

features new training-facilities bays that can hold all of the department’s firetrucks, as well as an exhaust and lighting system that will make the station safer and more efficient.

The station house also features a tower, two-stories tall, where hoses are raised and allowed to drain after they are used to fight a blaze.

Fire and other emergency calls will still be dispatched by the Arkadelphia Police Department’s 911 operators.

Architect Jerry Simmons of Twin Rivers Architect said that aesthetically, the new fire station will help improve the city’s “gateway” on the east side of town. He said the station has more green areas than the previous one, which dated back to the 1950s. He also said the limestone and brick exterior will be nearly maintenance-free.

Blake Batson, Clark County’s prosecuting attorney and a volunteer firefighter, agreed that the new station will help the city make a better first impression.

“There is no telling how many people come into town and stop here and ask directions,” he said. “Now people will see a building we can be proud of. We have needed something like this for years.”

Several current and retired volunteer firefighters attended the open house, including Batson and his father, 89-year-old Dick Batson, who has fought fires for more than 30 years.

“I lived down the street from where they kept the city’s firetruck at a gas station,” Dick said. “If I heard the alarm, I would go get on the truck and go with them when I was about 14 years old.”

He remembers that when the school burned around 1943, he had the fire engine started up and pulled out of the garage of the service station and was waiting when the fire chief arrived.

Dick officially joined the Arkadelphia Fire Department after his return from World War II, although he had to wait until he was 21 years old.

Loyal to the Fire Department, Dick Batson was told he could not be a volunteer firefighter after he was elected to the Arkadelphia Board of Directors, so he stepped down and was elected to the Clark County Quorum Court, on which he served for 48 years. He retired from firefighting in 1977, his son said.

Both Batsons, as well as city leaders and fire officials, stood together for the official opening. Arkadelphia Mayor Charles Hollingshead said the new Fire Department building is a tribute to the city’s firefighters, who face danger to serve and protect their neighbors in the community.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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