CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Lt. Chris Elam and Eric Blair get their equipment for a call Monday afternoon at Station 6 of the Clovis Fire Department. The department last used the building as a station in 1997, before it was replaced by a new second station on Llano Estacado Boulevard.
When it was first created, city officials felt the then-new fire station on 21st and Main would be a valuable asset for the city’s fire department.
More than half a century later, the station has been reopened under the very same premise.
Sunday marked the first day of operation for Fire Station No. 6, adjacent to the Marshall Middle School football field. It’s the first time it’s been a fire station since the building was transferred to the Parks and Recreation Department in 1997.
“The station is ideally a backup for the department’s five other stations, particularly on paramedic needs,” Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman said.
The other five stations are the main department at Fourth and Mitchell Streets, Station 2 on Llano Estacado Boulevard, Station 3 on Martin Luther King Boulevard across from the Clovis Apartments, Station 4 at 14th and Norris Streets and Station 5 on Brady Street.
Of the department’s 78 employees, 69 of them are firefighters and/or paramedics on three shifts — A, B and C. There are 23 on each shift, Westerman said, with four manning the first four stations and three at the other two.
Station 6 was handled Monday afternoon by the “C” shift, consisting of Battalion Chief Kevin Crouch, Lt. Chris Elam and driver/operator Eric Blair. It’s Elam’s first day as lieutenant, as he was one of three people promoted in line with supervisory requirements of the new station.
Elam said he was one of many crew members who helped rip out the old living quarters, which now includes a small living room and kitchen area, a battalion chief dorm room, a bathroom with a shower and a dorm room with six lockers dividing twin beds.
Brazil and Elam said the “real story” is a history that involved Crouch, who has more of a right to call it home than anybody in the department.
“My dad was a chief here when I was a kid,” Crouch said. “He worked until about 1968. Our family lived in this station.”
In fact, Elam pointed out, Crouch’s current desk is located where he once had a bed.
The garage roof still isn’t completed, and tile was still drying in the shower. Many of the remaining renovations, Blair said, will be tackled during down time.
“It’s a work in progress,” Blair said, “but it’s definitely livable.”
Other history is evident from a plaque Blair pointed out.
The crew is waiting to finish paint work in the garage before they re-hang the original dedication plaque — an iron sign indicating dedication from Mayor Gerry O. Deming. At that time, voters cast ballots for five city commissioners, who elected the mayor from within the commission. Other city commissioners were Manzy Simms, Eddie Jones, Roy S. Walker and Ned Houk.
Ideally, the station might end up being backup for most departments.
“It could be anywhere,” Crouch said, noting that Station 6 crew should never pass by another fire station unless they’re going to an incident in aid of that station’s crew.
Elam said the station had a trial run Saturday and received 19 calls, ranging from smoke investigations to fires. Calls Monday included a barn fire and aiding a citizen who fell at the public defender’s office.
Crouch expects about 15 calls a day to be handled by the station.
Westerman’s more pleased with backup capabilities, because response time is already at an average of 2 minutes, 36 seconds — well below nationwide averages between four and six minutes.
“I don’t dwell on response times, per se,” Westerman said. “Larger cities certainly have an issue with response time due to spacing. The only thing that really hurts us is having multiple responses in one area at the same time.”
The department is also working on improvements to its seventh location, an unmanned station at the Clovis Municipal Airport. If the department is able to have those stations upgraded in a few months after a requested review, Westerman said the department would be eligible for up to $100,000 in additional fire money from the state.
The renovation, Westerman said, was paid for through state money the building received while it functioned as a storage station when it was taken back from the Parks and Recreation Department about eight years ago.