WINTHROP — Thousands of times, the town’s firefighters have left their cramped station on Main Street, stopping traffic so their small fleet of trucks can be driven to house fires, car crashes, carbon monoxide scares, and other mishaps.
On Saturday, firefighters plan to race out of that station one last time, but not for an emergency.
Rather, they’ll head to their gleaming new home on Route 202, where a ribbon and a pair of scissors will be waiting for them.
“We are very excited about it,” Chief Dan Brooks of the Winthrop Fire Department said during a recent tour of the new station. “I’ll feel a lot better about it on Saturday. Construction is over. Now it’s just time to use it.”
The town is planning an opening ceremony for the station at 10 a.m. Saturday, after the firefighters ride their vehicles in a caravan from Main Street.
After the ribbon is cut and a group of officials deliver remarks, the station will be open to visitors until about noon.
The $1.8 million facility has been in the works for about a decade.
In the late 2000s, local officials debated constructing a new facility to house all three of the town’s public safety agencies: the Police Department, Fire Department and ambulance service, according to Sarah Fuller, chairwoman of the Town Council.
But voters rejected building that new combined facility, and the town instead purchased the three-acre lot at 1703 U.S. Route 202, knowing it could be used as a fire station.
The project gained traction in recent years, when the Windover Foundation provided $450,000 in grant funding. The town has taken out a 25-year rural development loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay for the remainder of project.
Supporters of the new station argue that it will allow the department, which has about 26 volunteers, to respond to scenes more quickly than it could from its station on Main Street.
They also say that it will be cleaner, healthier and more convenient than the current station because of its large size — about 10,000-square-feet — and ventilation upgrades. Those include tubes that will connect to the exhaust pipes of trucks and remove their diesel fumes from the building.
While the new station is one-story, it is built around a three-story tower that will provide firefighters with a space to clean and dry hoses, among other functions.
The inside of the tower is mostly waterproof, and there is a shower on the first floor that will allow firefighters to clean off the filth when they’ve returned from fires and other scenes, according to Brooks.
On the second floor, there’s a room with a window looking out on the first floor.
Firefighters also have raised money for the new station independently, including about $2,600 which they spent to have the exterior painted a barn red.
While the exterior was originally slated to be a brown hue that matched its trim, firefighters decided they liked the red color after it appeared in a 3D model of the new station produced by its architect, according to Brooks.
The new station includes an exercise room, two dormitory spaces, a kitchen and a room that could be used as office space for the volunteer firefighters. The hope, according to Brooks, is that those offerings will make it more inviting for the volunteer firefighters to work or spend their spare time at the station, so that they’ll respond to fires more quickly.
“Anything I can do to have a guy at the station, it’s like having a free full-time firefighter,” Brooks has said.
The station also has a meeting space that can be used for other community functions and a small lobby where the department’s 1947 truck will be displayed.
The $1.8 million Winthrop Fire Station on Route 202 will officially open Saturday. (Andrew Malloy/Kennebec Journal)
Winthrop Fire Chief Dan Brooks walks through the waterproof training room on the second floor of the new Winthrop Fire Station on Route 202 Thursday. (Andrew Molloy/Kennebec Journal)