04/06/06 — Seymour Johnson firefighters will unveil new station soon

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Seymour Johnson firefighters will unveil new station soon

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 6, 2006 1:50 PM

The biggest "family" on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is preparing to move into its new home -- a pair of high-tech facilities worth a combined $11 million.

Fire Chief Thomas Wade said Seymour Johnson Fire Department has been waiting decades for a new station -- the current building is just too small and resources are becoming a bit outdated. But by the end of the summer, those problems will go up in smoke.

"We're short on space here," Wade said. "Having this new station gives us better assets and resources to serve the base and the community."

The project is divided into two buildings, each currently under construction. The smaller of the two, known as the Satellite Station, mostly serves residential areas on base, Wade said. It houses five firefighters and is scheduled to open by the end of April.

The main station should be completed by the end of the summer, he added.

Assistant Fire Chief Sean Quinby said the extra space provided by the new facilities will make life more comfortable for the men and women who live and work there. After all, they work 24-hour shifts every other day.

"Literally half of their time they live here," he said. "This (fire station) is their home."

As for the $11 million price tag, Quinby said it takes a lot of money to provide for such a large "family."

"It's a reasonable price when you think about it," he said. "I mean, when you build a house for 93 people, that's a big house."

Each of the two "houses" is fully equipped with sleeping quarters, a fitness center, kitchen and bathrooms. But it's the new hardware that's the most impressive, Wade said.

"The equipment upgrades are really amazing," he said.

New amenities include wireless Internet capabilities, flat-screen televisions in every room, touch-screens on the bedroom walls and a high-tech computer system.

But Wade added that all the equipment serves a purpose -- it's not all for fun and games. Like the televisions, for example.

"When they're watching the TV in their rooms, if there's an emergency, the system will override the channels and put the details of the emergency on the screen," he said. "It will tell them what the situation is, who needs to respond and how much time they have to get their gear on."

A more widespread flow of information, he added, means a more efficient response -- even if the emergency is as simple as getting a cat out of a tree.

Airman 1st Class Jimarse Brown and Senior Airman Horace Conney said they found out last month that small tasks like that come with the job.

"A couple of weeks ago at about midnight we saved a cat out of a tree," Brown said, laughing. "It only took us like three seconds."

Conney interjected.

"Man, (the owner) couldn't get the cat out the whole time," he said. "Then the fire truck rolled in and the cat came right down. But that's all right. We'll do it for anybody."

Brown, 19, said he always loved watching fire trucks roll by. Now, he's one of the people he used to admire.

"Since I was a kid, I saw fire trucks racing by and I wondered why they wore all that gear," he said. "Then you get older and realize they get to save people. I love it. It's just amazing."

Conney said his military background was one factor that led him to the Air Force. But when he learned that airmen could be firefighters, too, it was an easy decision.

"I lived right near a volunteer fire department when I was growing up," he said. "The guys always talked about their job and how great it was. My uncle was in the Air Force, but I thought everybody flew a plane."

When his recruiter told him about the fire department, he was sold. Friendships within the department and good times around the station make for something new to look forward to each day, he said.

But Brown added it's not all fun and games.

"We have a good time and feed off each other," he said. "We have fun, but it's serious."