Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District plans to replace aging station

Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District is looking to replace Fire Station 28, which is 45 years old in a metal building on 94th Avenue in the Oakhurst area.

LARGO — Fire Station 28, which is 45 years old and in a metal building on 94th Avenue in the Oakhurst area, must be evacuated in the event of any hurricane.

That, and for other reasons, is why the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District is looking to replace the station possibly on property owned by county government at 14644 113th Avenue, which is off Hamlin Boulevard.

Fire Chief Michael Burton said at the Board of Fire Commissioners meeting April 20 that he made a formal request to county officials for $4 million for construction of the facility and $600,000 for property acquisition and design.

He had a conversation the day of the meeting with county officials about the funding request.

"I was very encouraged by today's activities, and we are at least on the list for consideration," Burton said.

That request, for Penny for Pinellas funding, is consistent with allocations for other stations, he said, such as for the Lealman Fire District Station, funded at $3.6 million in fiscal year 2019-2020 and the Palm Harbor Fire District station, funded at $3.5 million in the same fiscal year.

Burton said he discussed with county officials recently the option of cash flow conceivably in the upcoming fiscal year for land acquisition and some early design phases with funding for the station in fiscal year 2023.

He said that was a reasonable time frame, adding that the district can start working more aggressively on land acquisition and design starting in October, which is in the first quarter of the next fiscal year.

Based on his experience, he said a fire station design from scratch is a 16- to 18-month project, which would continue into fiscal year 2023.

"This still has to go before several different panels of Pinellas County government," Burton said.

In November, in cooperation with Pinellas County Safety and Emergency Services, district fire commissioners adopted a study that identified the most advantageous locations for each of the district fire stations from a service delivery and respond time perspective.

In a March 23 memo to county Safety and Emergency Services Director James Fogarty, Burton wrote that Station 28 is well past its useful life, and the location does not support the community's response time needs.

The proposed station is expected to include the construction of a three-bay fire station, apparatus storage, administrative offices, a fleet maintenance facility, space to hold public meetings, training room and the district's emergency operations center. It would be built to withstand winds of a category four hurricane or greater.

The district does not have an EOC and is reliant upon annual agreements and makeshift arrangements with two local churches that are willing to serve as the district's EOC, he wrote.

The study said relocating the station to the north and west would be a more advantageous location for service within the district and the region.

It also says the station endures a number of design elements that do not support firefighter safety, such as inadequate firefighting gear storage, the lack of exhaust removal devices, the lack of fire sprinkler system, inadequate storage and no physical fitness facility.

It does not have drive-thru capabilities and requires the backing of large apparatus in the station from the street.

Station 28 provides fire and emergency medical services to Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Belleair Beach Belleair Shore, the unincorporated part of the county within the district and neighboring jurisdictions.