HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Firefighters here have a new home – a 35,000 square foot facility that not only improves their response times but also their quality of life.
The building’s grand opening Thursday — attended by Air Force leadership, federal, state and local politicians – was marked by a traditional ceremony, where instead of a ribbon being cut, a fire hose was uncoupled and a “return home” code rang from a bell.
The ceremony may have been the official celebration for the new $14 million fire station, but Hill firefighters have been settling into the building for the past few weeks.
“This has been a long time coming,” said fire prevention Chief Jeff Beck. “The base originally requested a new station in 1997.”
The old facility was deemed unsound three years ago. Since then, the firefighters have lived and worked out of an old Airmen dormitory. They were both farther away from the flight line and living right on top of each other. There wasn’t enough space inside the makeshift bays for their equipment and they frequently had to work out in the elements.
“We’re required to respond to flight line emergencies within a certain amount of time and it was a challenge in the dorms,” said Beck.
The new 16-bay facility has space for newer, larger response vehicles and will improve flight line response times by about 90 seconds, which is a long time when lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in aircraft and equipment are endangered.
The new fire station’s giant kitchen, gym, recreation room, laundry room, and individual living quarters will contribute to a better quality of life for the 45 firefighters who will live and work there, Beck said.
Firefighters, like Derek Martinez, not only work from the fire station, they also live there during their shifts, which last for 48 hours and total 144 hours every two weeks.
“The dorms made it feel like we were back in basic training or tech school,” said Martinez. “But moving in here will really improve morale. It already has. It makes us feel appreciated.”
The new facility is one of four stations on Hill Air Force Base and Little Mountain Test Facility. Hill is the Air Force’s second largest base by population and size.