New Barnwell Fire Station in operation

By Curt Chapman
Staff Writer
Posted 4/25/07

BARNWELL – Amid pride of accomplishment and smiles that couldn’t be extinguished, the Barnwell Volunteer Fire Department’s new station was dedicated Saturday, April 21, a project that was years in the making. The 9,600-square-foot, $478,000 …

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New Barnwell Fire Station in operation


BARNWELL – Amid pride of accomplishment and smiles that couldn’t be extinguished, the Barnwell Volunteer Fire Department’s new station was dedicated Saturday, April 21, a project that was years in the making. The 9,600-square-foot, $478,000 facility, located at 8587 U.S. Highway 98, was built for the future, according to Fire Chief Roy Glenn.

“We lost 30 feet of our old station during Hurricane Ivan,” Glenn said. “The new building is rated to withstand 150 mph winds.”

The old, much smaller building on County Road 3 was on a parcel owned by the Baldwin County School Board, he said, and the new structure is on land purchased through the joint effort of the firefighters and the organization’s board of directors. The department actually occupied the new space in November, but waited until now to mark the occasion.

The building houses offices, a kitchen, dorms, a fitness/training room, meeting space, a lounge, four-pull through bays and two back-in bays for response vehicles.

“Both the dorm and upstairs dayroom portion are for future growth, and will be used during disasters such as hurricanes,” he said.

The idea behind building such a facility is simple. Firefighters can gather there whenever they’d like and respond faster than they could from home. Also, because many belong to gyms and enjoy staying fit, the workout room will meet their needs and encourage them to remain closer to home.

Glenn said, “If we can keep a firefighter physically fit and ready to go, they can respond quicker. The station is built to make volunteers more comfortable, and able to spend time with their families. It’s built to keep them around the station more so they can be first out on calls.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was expected to come through with the bulk of the funding for the new fire station, Glenn said, but that didn’t happen. He’s hoping community donors will step up to the plate to help out, and residents will promptly answer the annual request for support.

“We’ll be sending out the newsletter the first week in May,” he said. “That’ll be their annual dues notice. We ask for the regular $25, but welcome anyone who would like to pay more than that.”

Around 75 percent of those who received the annual newsletter last year responded, he said. That’s up from three years ago when only 30 percent of residents sent a check.

“A lot of our money also comes from ad valorem taxes and the state forestry department and the probate court,” Glenn said. “We’ve come a very long way (since being founded in 1974) and we continue to grow.”

Although the station is relatively well-equipped, there are needs that must be met. For example, the volunteers are in need of 20 new air packs and spare bottles at a cost of $187,000. Why so expensive? Glenn smiled and said, “If you put ‘fire’ in front of it or paint it red, the price goes up.”

The department recently obtained a FEMA grant through the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency, which was used to purchase a thermal imaging system, a vital piece of hardware used to locate people in burning buildings. Glenn said training to use the equipment will begin soon.

The department serves a 33-square-mile area south of County Road 32, with a population of around 3,500. They have an automatic aid agreement with the Marlow/Fish River department, and work with others to fight fires upon request.

Glenn said there’s much camaraderie between squads.

“Any apparatus we’ve got – if they’re in need of a special tool, we’ll respond,” he said. The Barnwell department is linked to 36 others through the Baldwin County Fire Chiefs Association, and many of its members turned out for the weekend celebration, which included the association’s fire safety house, plenty of good food, tours of equipment and facilities, and a visit by a MedEvac emergency medical helicopter.

“We’re proud of it,” Glenn said. “We’re proud of what we accomplished.”

Ground was broken for the new building not long after Hurricane Katrina devastated portions of the Gulf Coast in August 2005. Much of the site work was done using donated materials and volunteer labor.

Now, the department needs additional people to help out. Glenn said, “We welcome any volunteers. He have 15 members now, but one just moved out of the community. Daytime volunteers are especially needed, for the 6-to-6 time frame. We encourage it, no matter what community you live in.”

You don’t have to be a firefighter to take part.

“There are other responsibilities you can assume in a volunteer fire department,” he noted. “You don’t have to fight fires.”

Among those jobs, Glenn said, are repacking equipment and supplies to free up the firefighters’ time and have things ready “so these folks can hit the ground running.”

Potential volunteers can stop by the station to begin the application process. The volunteers meet each Tuesday, at 7 p.m., at the station.

He added, “It’s more than putting wet stuff on the hot stuff. We’re run like a small business. We offer medical insurance, life insurance and workman’s comp insurance to our firefighters. I sit down each year with a board of directors and present a budget. My board has been real understanding on this. They believe in what we’re doing, and I commend them and our community for making this facility possible.”

If you’d like to make a donation to the Barnwell Volunteer Fire Department, send it to P.O. Box 84, Point Clear, AL 36564.