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A banner year for Big River/Bonne Terre Fire Department continues on Saturday when the community is welcomed to the department’s new station with a public open house and ladder truck christening.

The grand opening begins at 10 a.m. on North Allen Street next to City Hall. After the dedication ceremony, a reception and light lunch will be offered. Tours will be given freely during the two-hour event.

The new firehouse makes use of an old gymnasium that had once been part of one of the North County School District’s old campuses. Their current firehouse, located at North Division and Ash streets, had been in use for 47 years.

Former North County students who visit the gym-turned-firehouse will notice basketball nets still hang over what is now the floor of a four-bay firetruck garage. If they miss the old, wooden floor, they can still see part of it on the wall of the truck bays, and part of it on the top of a table crafted especially for the firefighters’ dayroom.

Fire Chief David Pratte has been diligently working hard to put finishing touches on the new, spacious facility.

“It is big, but it’s room for growth,” he said. “If our building is used for 50 years like the one we’re moving out of — it’s been 47 years since that was upgraded — we’ll be able to grow into this facility.”

And what a facility.

Local businessman Sharo Shirshekan purchased the vacant North County school buildings around 2005.

When the old school gymnasium was designated to be a firehouse about a year ago, the renovation project took into account specifications required by the department’s first ladder truck, which Shirshekan also donated and the department accepted in February. 

The four bays can house eight large trucks with the fifth bay used for maintenance. Significant storage for new gear and equipment can be found throughout the station, as well as nine bathrooms, a large area to be used for offices, meetings and training, an IT room, and shower areas for firefighters. The dayroom features a lounge area, kitchen with brand new appliances including a dishwasher. The facility also includes two laundry areas, one in the men’s shower and one located off the bays.

The ceremony on Saturday is to include a christening of the ladder truck, the fire department’s first. The 2006 Pierce XT has a 95-foot ladder and a 2,000-pound-per-minute pump. It was purchased to help fill the needs of the community and to help lower the Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating of Bonne Terre, which should reduce the cost of insurance coverage.

“We’re hanging the pictures, making it home," Pratte said Wednesday. “I’m excited, it’s been a long time coming."

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Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at shaas@dailyjournalonline.com

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