East Chattanooga to Get New Fire Hall

Nov. 9--An East Chattanooga fire station "well past its prime" will be razed and rebuilt in the next year, according to city officials.

The Chattanooga Fire Department's Fire Hall 4, located just off Dodson Avenue on Bragg Street, was built in 1954 and shows its age, Chief Wendell Rowe said.

"It's beyond repair," Chief Rowe said, explaining that outdated electrical wiring, substandard heating and air conditioning, a lack of handicapped accessibility and a poor exhaust ventilation system are among problems that have plagued the station for years.

"It's not a station for the future," he said, explaining that, ideally, within the next few years each of the city's 17 fire halls will have two fire truck bays and enough storage space for the increasing amount of equipment needed to fulfill growing homeland security responsibilities.

The Chattanooga City Council on Tuesday approved a budget just shy of $31 million for various capital projects, including $850,000 to rebuild Fire Hall 4. Also budgeted is an additional $850,000 to rebuild Fire Hall 9 in East Lake next year, said Hobert Brabson II, the city's capital planning manager.

Chief Rowe said those are the two stations most in need of updates, though station 15 on Shallowford Road also is in need of work and hopefully will be next in line.

Station 9 in East Lake, built in the 1930s, outdates Fire Hall 4, Chief Rowe said, but the latter is in the most disrepair. It has not been decided when construction will begin or where the station's staff will work until their new facility is complete, he said.

"It's definitely a place you don't want to be in real rainy weather," Chief Rowe said, noting that roof leaks and drainage problems make it difficult for Fire Hall's 4 firefighters to feel at home during their 24-hour shifts.

The firefighters, who sleep and eat in the station's dated living quarters in staffs of four to five at a time, cannot even drink the tap water there because of high iron levels, Deputy Chief Randy Parker said.

Firefighters working out of the station said they do not mind the inconveniences, as none of those things prevent them from doing their jobs.

"You just accept the hall as it is, and you learn to love it," said Capt. Marvin Hudgins, who commands the station's red shift.

Firefighter Eugene Morris said he likes the crew that works at Fire Hall 4. "That's what makes the fire hall, as far as I'm concerned," he said.

Copyright (c) 2006, Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.