Golden shovels planted in front of a red firetruck marked the groundbreaking Tuesday morning for a new building to replace the oldest fire station in the Bluffton Township Fire District.
The $2.2 million Station 30 at the corner of Burnt Church and Ulmer roads is expected to be completed by early summer and replace the run-down fire station just a few hundred feet away on Bridge Street.
The groundbreaking came five years after the district began saving for the station's construction.
The old station is "about to fall down," Chief Barry Turner said before a group assembled on the 9.2-acre site of the new building.
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A 2010 engineering study of the current Station 30, which was built in 1980, documented structural problems and stated it could collapse in a major storm. The district spent about $10,000 to temporarily prop up the rusted columns supporting the steel building.
"We never dreamed that the Bluffton community would be what it is today," Turner said. "But we do know that this new fire station will take us into the next phase of the fire district's role in the community."
The replacement station, built of brick, stucco and tabby, will be 7,200 square feet, about a third larger than the current facility. It is expected to house an engine company and an ambulance, along with a Beaufort County EMS squad.
Designed by Court Atkins Architects, the building also will have individual sleeping quarters for firefighters during their 24-hour shifts to meet new National Fire Protection Association standards. Many other stations feature bunk beds in one "dormitory-style" room, said Deputy Fire Chief John Thompson, station project leader.
Town Councilman Mike Raymond, a member of the fire district's commission, said the building will be "an asset that will serve Bluffton for a long time."
When the replacement station is completed, it will join five other stations the district operates.