By Debbie Carson, Online Editor
GIFFORD — Gifford community leaders celebrated the grand opening of their first fire station Saturday morning with the first official siren blast.
“This is your station,” said Assistant Chief Ed Prime, addressing the audience gathered in the bay of fire station.
(Click Read More to see related photo gallery) “This is a dream come true,” said Freddie Woolfork, chair of the Gifford Front Porch Revitalization Council, before Saturday’s ceremony.
“The day has come and we’re not disappointed,” said Joe Idlette III, president of the Progressive Civic League of Gifford.
Gifford resident Victor Hart Sr. was tapped to sound the fire engine’s siren for the first time, marking the official opening of the fire station.
“He’s happy as a kid in a candy store,” said Indian River County NAACP President Tony Brown as Hart sounded the loud siren.
Though the fire station has opened without an ambulance, it will be equipped with an Advanced Life Support fire engine. The county’s Emergency Services Department has plans to add an ambulance sometime in the future as funds become available in the budget, according to Assistant Chief Ed Prime.
The ALS engine will provide emergency responders with the tools they need to stabilize the patient until an ambulance can arrive to provide transport to the hospital.
The $2.1 million fire station was built in part with a $750,000 grant from the Florida Department of Community Affairs.
Representatives from the Board of County Commissioners and the Emergency Services Department all said during the ceremony that the Gifford Fire Station – the 12th in the county – has been a long time coming.
“This was a long, hot struggle,” Hart said prior to taking a seat in the engine.
For years, the fire station on 43rd Avenue has been the primary station to respond to fire and medical emergencies in Gifford.
Brown said that there have been times that trains have held up emergency crews from Station 3 on 43rd Avenue in responding to the Gifford community.
The new station, Brown said, would help keep response times to a minimum and help prevent tragedies from happening.
Emergency Services Director John King told the assembled crowd that he had been asking when the Gifford community would get it’s own station since 1981.
“We finally got one in Gifford,” he said as the audience cheered.