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Fire station faces final call

Like an old fire horse being put out to pasture, the Lutz Fire Station soon will have outlived its usefulness. And even though Hillsborough County officials plan to build a new station only two miles south of the old one, some residents are bemoaning the end of an era.

"The old fire department is a landmark with a lot of history and a lot of great memories for a lot of people," said Sonny Edwards, president of the Lutz Civic Association. "I don't see why we have to close it down."

The old station is being closed to move firefighters closer to the action, said Beth Nevel, administrative chief of the Hillsborough County Fire Department.

"The idea is to move the service south to get more equipment to cover the center of Lutz, where more calls are occurring," Nevel said.

Although no decision has been made on the fate of the old building, it is certain its 28 volunteer firefighters will have their share of fires to put out.

"The volunteers will be moving. They will bring their equipment with them," Nevel said. "This will be a strictly volunteer station."

The new fire station, to be on Dennison Road and U.S. Highway 41, will replace the old station on Lutz-Lake Fern Road. It will be closer to a more densely populated area and it will overlap the coverage area of fire stations on Dale Mabry Highway and Hillsborough Avenue.

That means a quicker response ti-time and better fire protection overall to residents and businesses, officials said.

"I think if the need is to get closer to the population then I think it should definitely be done," said Dan Ruskiewicz, property manager of Carrollwood Village. "But they need to weigh the advantages against the tradition."

The proposed station, which has been planned for five years, would be the biggest in the county and would cost $420,000, said Raul Quintana, project manager for county capital projects.

But those plans come at a time when other volunteer fire departments are feeling the pinch of the recession.

The county recently turned down a request from the Gunn Highway Fire Department for additional county-paid firefighters. Instead of hiring new firefighters,the county was forced to shuffle employees around.

There are no paid firefighters at the Lutz station.

The county bought the two-acre parcel on Dennison Road for $69,000 in April using impact fees from developers. Money for construction of the new Lutz station will come out of the county's capital projects department, Nevel said.

The area to be covered by the new station is bordered by First Avenue and U.S. 41, Connie Avenue and U.S. 41, Livingston Avenue and Dale Mabry Highway, Nevel said.

Hillsborough County officials will hold a public meeting June 12 to discuss the new station.

The meeting will be held at Maniscalco Elementary School, 939 Debuel Road in Lutz from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Public comment is invited.