By Ashley Graves
The Cullman Times
JOHNSON’S CROSSING —
With the room so silent a pin drop could be heard, a page came over the mobile two-way radios of the volunteer firefighters in attendance.
“Welcome to the opening of the new Johnson’s Crossing Fire Station,” the voice said.
After 18 long months, it was a message everyone was glad to hear.
When Candy Reeves, assistant fire chief for the department, arrived at the station on the morning of April 27, 2011, she couldn’t believe what she saw. Two large Oak trees making their home on the building.
“Every which way I tried to get here, I couldn’t,” she said. “But when I finally got to the station, I walked back to a neighbors house and saw our building was totally obstructed by two trees. Luckily we were able to save our trucks.”
Because of the damage, the department was without a permanent home until now, meaning its fire engines and equipment had to be housed in a temporary tent-like structure provided by the Army Corps of Engineers. After the contract on the structure ran out in December, and the department couldn’t afford to pay $1,500 per month in rent to keep, the department was then forced to house its fire engines and equipment at other nearby stations, while storing the brush truck and EMT-rescue truck at a volunteer’s house.
Meanwhile, at the same time, they were playing the waiting game with the state Emergency Management Agency to approve the money needed to begin rebuilding.
“It’s been a long process,” Reeves said. “A long 18 months of it, but I’m proud to have what we have now.”
In addition to State House Representative Mac Buttram, Sen. Paul Bussman, and Cullman County Sheriff Mike Rainey, Ricky Little, the Regional Coordinator for the Alabama EMA was also on hand for the opening of the new station Saturday. As with the other three county officials, Little commended the department for their hard work during the rebuilding process.
“I realize its been a long road, and when Senator Bussman and Mac got with Art (Faulkner, the state EMA director), we had to build a fire under FEMA to get things going, but we thank you for what you’ve done, and commend you on a job well done.”
In the event the department loses power for a lengthy period of time again, they’ll be ready. The new station is equipped with gas heat, gas water heaters, and gas for cooking.
“Should anything happen of that magnitude again, we’ll now have a place with heat for shelter,” Reeves said.
Ashley Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 225, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org