Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Patching the Cracks at the Athens Fire Station

By Karen Zolka




See the leaks at the Columbus Road Fire Station

These are all things you'd expect to find in a condemned building--not in a fire station serving more than 20,000 residents.

On Monday, Athens City Council passed an ordinance giving the fire department $53,000 to fix some of the problems at the 45 year old Columbus Road fire station. Last year, the city spent more than $130,000 trying to repair problems in the firehouse. Fire Chief Robert Troxel estimates that fixing all of the structural problems would cost at least one million dollars.

Robert Troxel, Athens Fire Chief

Troxel also says that a crumbling foundation is not the only problem facing firefighters in Athens. "Cities like Portsmouth have 36 to 38 firefighters, Chillicothe has around 50, Marietta has 38 and we're sitting here with 23. As you can see there is a vast disparity between us and the other paid departments in our area," he said.

Troxel says that Athens has a strong group of volunteer firefighters, which helps to fill the gap left by the lack of paid firefighters, known as "career" firefighters. He fears that being understaffed will have serious consequences in the future.

"My greatest fear is if we have a dormitory fire at three or four in the morning, and we only have four people on duty. Most of the dormitories are not sprinkled," said Troxel.

Robert Troxel, Athens Fire Chief

Despite being understaffed, Troxel says the average response time for emergencies in the City of Athens is less than four minutes.

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