Cedar Rapids firefighter Randy Hook pulled Engine 3 up to the bay doors of the department's new station 3 and walked inside.
"Welcome home!" shouted a group of firefighters inside the apparatus bay.
"Wow," said Hooks, a big smile on his face as he looked around the bay. "Nice. Nice, nice, nice."
The scene inside the new station at 3520 Crestwood Dr. NW was equal parts Christmas, moving day and house warming party. Teams of firefighters unloaded trailers full of exercise equipment, desks, mattresses, a snow blower and other essential items into the station, moved over that morning from the old station 3 at 1424 B Avenue NE near Coe College. Friday marked the first day crews took possession of the new station, which has been under construction since this summer.
The completion of Station 3 signals the end of more than five years of recovery, reshuffling and moving for the Cedar Rapids Fire Department. The department lost its former Central Station to the Floods of 2008. Seizing the opportunity the floods presented, the fire department built a new $20 million Central Station out of the flood zone, which opened in October. Moving the Central Station from the west side of the river to the east created overlapping fire districts and the city opted to move Station 3 to the northwest quadrant, a rapidly growing portion of the city.
The significance of reaching this flood recovery milestone was not lost on the firefighters, said Battalion Chief Brian Giachino.
"It's a huge moral boost," he said.
The new station provides a sorely needed updated facility for crews working out of Station 3. Built in 1925 and later renovated, the old Station 3 was too small for modern apparatuses and offered barely adequate living spaces. Hook, who worked out of the old station for seven or eight years, describe the move as going from "the Flintstones to the Jetsons."
Firefighters lauded the new station's two double-deep drive-through bays and improved living quarters and training space.
"It's great," Hook said. "It's fantastic."
Assistant Fire Chief Curtis Hopper said the new station will also improve the quality of services offered by the fire department in the northwest quadrant.
"About 12 percent more of the population will be within one-and-a-half miles of the fire station," Hopper said. "We're going to allow them to be closer to the fire station, which equates to quicker response times."The city is done building new fire stations for now, but Hopper estimates the city could use another west side station in the next decade or two as Cedar Rapids continues to expand to the west.