Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue celebrated the opening of its new Station 22 on Thursday, Jan. 9. Located at 16650 Town Center Parkway South in Westlake, the new building replaced a nearby facility that has operated out of the Grove Market Shopping Center since 2002.
Hundreds of area dignitaries, fire officials and interested residents who have advocated over the years for the new station attended the celebration at a property donated by Westlake and its developer Minto. The donation was part of the area’s development agreement with Palm Beach County.
“Since this station was first established in this area in 2002, we have doubled the number of emergency 911 calls for fire and medical calls out in this area,” Fire Safety Specialist Tara Cardoso said. “We have also doubled the number of staff, and this station was built to last. This is Palm Beach County’s first Category 5 hurricane station.”
Palm Beach County Fire Chief Reginald Duren said he was surprised by the turnout at the grand opening.
“I recognize now the key is to wait 17 years and you get a major crowd to any event that you have,” Duren said. “I want to say, ‘thank you’ again to County Administrator Verdenia Baker and her staff, and Deputy County Administrator Jon Van Arnam for making this station possible as well.”
He also welcomed former Palm Beach County Administrator Bob Weisman and Facilities Development & Operations Director Audrey Wolf, PBCFR Advisory Board members Tom Wenham, Jay Littman, Titus Rich and Lance Berkowitz, as well as members of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Division of Forestry.
Duren thanked Kast Construction and A1A Architects & Planners for the design and construction of the building.
“A Category 5 facility requires some additional work and effort. It’s not something that’s built every day, but it is certainly something this community deserves,” Duren said. “This station, though it’s beautiful, though it’s a good beacon for the community, it’s also important that our firefighters have a place that they can come to and train. They can come confident that they can take all the actions needed to continue to prepare themselves for that next response. It’s so important that we have a building where they can respond in a timely fashion and have a base capable of securing all the many pieces of apparatus.”
He also pointed out that the station is equipped with a tender truck that carries 3,000 gallons of water to help extinguish fires where hydrants are not accessible, as well as a high-water truck that can access areas during flood events.
Baker said she could not take credit for the station because her predecessor, Weisman, led the way, providing mentorship in the context that life safety is a major factor for residents.
“I am very proud of the construction of this station,” Baker said. “This is a station that your county commissioner was relentless in getting built. She is to be thanked for her persistence in moving this station forward.”
Baker noted that the new station is the first station equipped with sophisticated air conditioning and decontamination rooms with buffers for fire equipment storage.
“This was our first off the drawing board, however, we are very conscious of it,” she said. “Administration will continue to work with fire-rescue in our facilities development and operations department, which deserves kudos for their hard work, service and leadership, but we are also looking at our existing stations to ensure the safety of our firefighters.”
Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said that he had spent the previous day with a group of PBCFR firefighters getting to know their rigorous routine.
“As a former police officer, I want to apologize, particularly to State Rep. Matt Willhite, for all of the firefighter jokes I’ve made over the years,” Kerner said. “I will continue to make them, but you guys have my deepest respect for what you do on a daily basis.”
Kerner said police and fire stations are special places for the people who work in them. “I know that what will always be in this building will be the camaraderie of the men and women who serve our community,” he said.
District 6 County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said it was overwhelming seeing the new station when six years ago, on a tour of the fire stations in her district, she was brought to Station 22, which operated out of a shopping center.
“It wasn’t acceptable,” she said. “It was housed in a location that used to be a doctor’s office. One of the main things that you need to do as a firefighter is build that camaraderie when you’re in the station, and that station wasn’t set up to do that. It also wasn’t a station that was set up to make sure that the apparatus was properly cared for.”
McKinlay said the new station was completed several years ahead of schedule, and she credited that to the many local leaders who advocated for a new Station 22.
“That did not happen without the support of our resident firefighters who work and live in The Acreage,” she said. “It did not happen without the moms and dads who were concerned for their safety in The Acreage, and it did not happen without the leadership from The Acreage community.”