VENTNOR — Ventnor Heights’ only fire station was torn down Thursday, making way for the city to build a new one in its place.
“I just see progress,” said fire Chief Mike Cahill after returning to look at the empty Wellington Avenue site Friday.
The city awarded a $3.1 million contract to Vineland-based Fabbri Builders in March to build a new station in the old one’s footprint, which officials say will be safer for both firefighters and their equipment.
Cahill, who had reevaluated the old station when he became chief, said its wood-frame construction had serious structural issues and was not up to current standards.
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The building also did not have living arrangements for firefighters that were above the floodplain and sometimes had to be evacuated in high winds.
Even though the fire station on New Haven Avenue has remained open, Cahill said having a fire station in Ventnor Heights is essential.
Because the Dorset Avenue bridge provides the department with its only access to the neighborhood, there needs to be equipment and manpower available in case a fire breaks out and the bridge is impassible.
On average, emergency calls from Ventnor Heights make up 30 percent to 35 percent of the Fire Department’s calls. In 2018, 994 calls came from the Heights compared with 836 in 2017, according to the city’s website.
Two firefighters, a fire engine and emergency equipment have been stationed at a temporary structure at the field complex on Surrey Avenue in Ventnor Heights while demolition and construction take place.
After more of the concrete is removed from the site, Cahill said construction will start. He said they are ahead of schedule and the project should take about a year to finish.
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning,” Cahill said, borrowing a quote from former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.