Wausau Fire and Rescue has long been locally referred to as “Home of the Renegades.” The department celebrated a new home for its members on Saturday when it hosted ribbon cutting ceremonies to mark the official opening of its new state-of-the-art fire station.
With funding first approved in 2018, the unveiling has been four years in the making, first through $985,500 in state appropriations and then another nearly $154,000 in U.S. Department of Agriculture grants.
The new station features a conference room with video conferencing capability, office space, a training/dining area, showers, and an in-house kitchen. There is room to grow as well, with the second story being roughed out to eventually install a living quarters.
Assistant Fire Chief Adam Smith says the facility represents years of growth and progress.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Smith said during Saturday’s open house event. “We had about a million dollars’ worth of equipment under a $10,000 shed, so this is a huge upgrade.”
Smith first proposed the new station after Hurricane Michael, saying that in addition to providing improved response time and fire protection services, the building also brings with it better emergency preparedness for the community.
“The generator will provide approximately two weeks of service,” he said. “This is vital to improving our ability and that of other first responders to react appropriately during times of crisis like we saw with Hurricane Michael.”
Wausau Mayor Roger Hagan says the department has come a long way from when it began in the 1960s with a borrowed fire truck and a small “lean-to” shed.
“This is the first the Town of Wausau has had a fully dedicated, fully equipped fire station, and we are excited about it,” said Hagan. “This has been a combined effort by a lot of people from our state delegates, Sen. George Gainer and Rep. Brad Drake to the fire department and the town council, all working in unison.”
Both Gainer and Drake say the decision to support the funding was an easy one.
“I am so proud to see this critical fire protection project completed and serving as an invaluable tool for our residents,” said Sen. Gainer.
“It is not only important to have good fire service, but to have it in areas closest to those that rely on them for the protection of their families and their property. This was not only a priority for me, but for Representative Drake as well. We are grateful the Florida Legislature joined us to make this a reality.”
Rep. Drake echoed those sentiments.
“Having fire protective services benefits any given community because insurance assessments are determined by proximity to such a service,” said Rep. Drake. “Moreover, having modernized and newer infrastructure provides a peace of mind that quick response services will be available when the need arises. As well, the Florida Legislature recognizes that our small communities, like Wausau, need to be prepared in the years to come. And I am grateful to join with Senator Gainer in funding these new additions, knowing the town will be adequately prepared during times of urgency.”
In addition to Sen. Gainer and Rep. Drake, the Town of Wausau and Wausau Fire and Rescue say they would like to acknowledge D&B Builders and Dewberry Engineering for their work on the project.
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