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New fire stations to serve 2 counties

A year ago, there were no fire stations on Keystone Road. But now one is under construction and a second one just moved a step closer to being built.

East Lake Fire & Rescue is building a $580,000 fire station at the entrance to the Woodfield subdivision, with construction expected to be finished at the beginning of August, about a month ahead of schedule.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has given the state Division of Forestry $200,000 to open a fire station on 6 acres at the northern end of Pinellas County's Brooker Creek Preserve.

The state's new fire station will replace two others, one near Countryside Mall and the other on Fletcher Avenue in Tampa. Both were built when those areas were undeveloped, but civilization has grown up around them. The state's new fire station will cover both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties from a location near the county line.

Mark Hebb, district supervisor for the state agency, said this week that it's possible the new Keystone Road station will open sometime next year.

The staff of the two stations will work together, but they will have different missions, East Lake Fire Chief Ron Taylor said.

East Lake's crew is supposed to protect the lives, homes and businesses of the people who live east of Lake Tarpon, while the state forestry staff will watch out for forest fires.

The Brooker Creek Preserve is regarded as the last big chunk of undeveloped land in Pinellas. The county has spent about $30-million piecing the preserve together over the past decade and recently hired a team of biologists and other experts from the University of South Florida to write a plan for managing the property.

Hebb's division first proposed the new station last year but had to wait to see whether the Legislature would put up the money for the project. Once the new station is built, he said, the old stations will be closed and probably sold.

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