WHAT’S GOING ON? Blowing Rock Fire Station 3 Under Construction on Aho Road

Published Thursday, December 8, 2016 at 3:32 pm
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Station 3 is located on Aho Road, only 2 to 3 miles away from the Horton Fire that raged in Watauga County in November. Photos by Ken Ketchie

By Jesse Wood

The Blowing Rock Fire Department sub-station at Aho Road is currently under construction and should be complete by this time next year.

Had the future facility been permitted for occupancy while the Horton Fire was raging just about 2 to 3 miles away in the Sampson area, it certainly would have been utilized.

“It would have been the spot for an incident command post for that fire and we would have had an earlier jump on that fire,” Blowing Rock Fire Chief Kent Graham said. “Fortunately, Laurel Fork Baptist Church made their facility available for an incident command post. They were absolutely fantastic.”  

Currently, Blowing Rock Fire Department operates its largest station on Valley Boulevard and Station 2 on U.S. 221. The facility under construction (Station 3), which has been planned since before the property was purchased in 2011, is located at 2409 Aho Road.

Station 3 will feature three bays and have room for an engine, tanker and a brush truck. Graham noted that down the road a medical support response vehicle could be stacked in a bay with a brush truck. The facility will also feature a bunkroom for manning during special situations and a community room for citizens in the Aho and Sampson areas.

Currently, Station 1 is nearly 5 miles away from the future Station 3 location.

Graham noted that the construction of Station 3 should bring all of the property within the Blowing Rock Fire District into a protected fire insurance classification, which will improve both response times and insurance premiums to that area of the fire district.

Blowing Rock Fire and Rescue is borrowing up to $1 million to build Station 3. For a station to be in service, certain requirements must be met, and for this area, Graham said that an engine and tanker will meet those requirements. The combined cost of those two rigs could be between $550,000 to $650,000.

“That’s not insignificant to the cost of putting a station in service,” Graham said.

Graham said that however much under $1 million the station is built for, the difference can be put toward the required equipment in a operational station. Although some temporary equipment shuffling can take place, Graham said he’s still figuring out the logistics of funding an engine and tanker for the future station.

During annual department meetings with town staff and council in March, Graham said that at least 36 active members would be needed on the team’s roster. He suggested hiring a greater number of part timers instead of hiring six full-time employees to meet the demands of a third station.

Speaking yesterday, Graham said that the process of these hires is taking place with shared funding from the Town of Blowing Rock and Blowing Rock Fire and Rescue, which operates as a separate entity like most all fire departments.

“We’ve made several hires and are in the process of hire more part-timers now,” Graham said. “We’ve been a little overwhelmed as far as the timing because we’ve been on one of the largest forest fires this area has seen in I don’t know how long and we’ve been working on Station 3 and working on those hires and answering an ever-increasing call volume as well.”

The fire has since been 100 percent contained. Station 3 is moving along, and Graham said new hires are coming in with plenty of experience fighting fires.

“It’s been successful thus far,” Graham said. “We’ve gotten really quality people.”

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