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The addition of four new truck bays at the Contentnea Fire Department on N.C. 42 will improve safety for department members.
Workers are currently installing insulation and metal siding on the 4,032 square-foot building just west of the existing station.
Fire Chief Scott Matthews said Hill Building Contractors of Wilson has the $486,000 construction contract. Hilliard and Faulkner Construction Inc. raised the metal frame and siding for the addition.
“The engine bay that we had really wouldn’t hold the trucks that we had and we were spending so much money in heating and cooling costs that we decided to do something different,” Matthews said. “Another reason that we decided to move those bays to where we did is we are now going to be able to drive around the building and drive in versus backing in off of 42.”
Matthews said there have been several times that vehicles on N.C. 42 have almost crashed into fire trucks as they attempted to back into the station from the highway.
“That will allow us to drive around and drive through, which will be a little safer for the guys and everybody else on the highway,” Matthews said. “One of the biggest things was trying to avoid backing in off of 42. There have been several close calls out there from some folks getting hurt.”
Matthews said the department will be paying for the new building out of its annual budget of $216,000 plus a $25,000 reimbursement for asphalt and concrete from the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Planning for the 48-by-84 feet building began last year.
“We ended up having to acquire some land behind the station to be able to put in a new septic system,” Matthews said. “We really got started about February of this year getting into some surveying and site work to start laying things out. We hope to have everything done and in the building by the end of the year.”
Part of the project includes refurbishing the department meeting room.
“There was no insulation in the walls and the heating system in there couldn’t keep in during the summer,” Matthews said. “It wouldn’t cool the building because of the block wall heating up so much, we are going to be insulating everything in there. The air conditioning and the heat would just run and run and never cut off.”
The old engine bay will be repurposed into the fire department’s new office area.
“The garage doors and everything will come out, so it will look like a regular office-type building with the engine bay now on the other side,” Matthews said. “The biggest thing was being able to have some room and spread out because the engine bay we had was packed full.”
Last year, Contentnea firefighters responded to about 240 calls. The department, started in 1975, has 24 members, all volunteer.
They cover the 42 West District serving a population of 2,200 with more than 14.2 square miles. There are 42 miles of road and property values in the district of more than $189 million.
The area of U.S. 264 and Interstate 95 keeps the department’s four trucks hopping.
“As far as call volume, it goes back to travel on the interstate. That’s where the majority of our calls are coming from,” said Matthews, who has been chief since 2012. “We do a lot of wrecks.”
The department uses a third-party billing agency to bill out-of-town and out-of-state people for first responder service.
“If we come up on an accident on 95 and they have insurance, they normally get billed to recoup some of our funds because they are not taxpaying citizens,” Matthews said. “So that helps us out, too.”