When the Ocean City-Wright Fire Department opened their brand new Station One this spring, it was like a dream come true for the men and women serving there. Located at 233 Racetrack Road, the new station is a drastic improvement over the old one.
The new $3.4 million facility clocks in at 17,560 square feet and is considerably larger than its predecessor. I was lucky to get a behind the scenes tour, and it definitely has that new car smell. “It’s just nice, it was time (to move),” says Deputy Fire Chief Scott Funchess. “Over there it was old, it was a lot of add-on, and the intersection is real bad… we’re in a smidge better location.”
Chief Funchess showed me around the fire station, graciously sharing over an hour of his time, answering questions, and explaining the many things they do besides fighting fires.
For example, did you know that the fire department offers CPR/First Aid classes to the general public? They also offer Basic Life Support (BLS) training for healthcare professionals. Classes cost $45 and are held on the first Monday of each month, and you can register at www.ocwfcd.org.
There is also a great deal of administrative work that takes place behind the scenes. Those mythical fire codes that everyone’s heard of but no one’s actually read? Well, those are a real thing, and there are several folks at the fire station whose job it is to make sure that new buildings adhere to those codes.
“We’ve got three inspections people (who) go out and do all the fire prevention stuff, they do all the building inspections,” says Funchess. “Any house, business, or whatever, they have to be stamped by our fire inspectors first.” It is a ton of paperwork, and no one is claiming that fire inspections are as fun as a trip to Disney World. But the results speak for themselves—the vast majority of calls the fire department answers are medical (car crashes, heart attacks, and the like). Because of improved standards, the public is safer from fire than it’s ever been.
Station One living quarters are now first-class and provide a warm, restorative environment for firefighters to recharge during their 24-hour shifts. The large common area features a television, an array of recliners, and a kitchen with ample space for everyone.
Seeing the living area also helped solve another mystery that I had been wondering about—this is a two-story station, so where was the fire pole? Funchess says people ask this all the time, and explains, “For one, they’re expensive. Two, they’re not as safe as they used to be.” And the most practical reason, he adds, is when calls come through, they have three minutes to be out the door. Going down a pole takes time, and in the new station, the living spaces are all on the ground floor, making it a thousand times quicker to get out.
There are two main takeaways Funchess wants to share with Beachcomber readers. First, he stresses that as public servants, they are there for you. “When they’re in their worst point, we’re at our best,” he says. “We put those two together, and we try to make it better for them.”
The other takeaway? The humble smoke detector. “Smoke detectors save lives, but we still go into houses that don’t have (them),” says Funchess, adding that if you cannot afford one, the fire department can get you one for free.
The Ocean City-Wright Fire Department works in partnership with other area departments—Fort Walton Beach, Destin, and others. Wherever you live, our local firefighters are there for you.
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