Citizen leader wants city to have more discussion on Lindenwald fire station move

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Hamilton City Council, later this month, is expected to vote on the purchase of a nearly 2.5-acre parcel for a new Station 26.

But Lindenwald resident Frank Downie, the founder and leader of PROTOCOL (People Reaching Out To Others: Celebrate Our Lindenwald) and 12-year member of 17Strong, wants the city to give pause and have “a little more talk, a little more discussion” about the relocation of the outdated Laurel Avenue station.

Downie said he and his Lindenwald neighbors understand the need to replace the 113-year-old Station 26, but there are concerns. He said while the proposed site is “very centrally located” to Hamilton’s east side and Lindenwald, “The thing that concerns us the most is that that property line is between two active railroad tracks.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“We’re just a little concerned,” he said. “Most of our houses in that area are wood framed. Some of them, including mine, are close to the age of the firehouse. They’re very close to each other. Most are separated by only a driveway between them. Some, where the garages are by the allies, they’re separated by a sidewalk. Fire between these structures could spread very, very rapidly if it got started.”

Hamilton Fire Chief Mark Mercer said the site in the 1700 and 1900 blocks of South Erie Boulevard was the best option when deciding on a new site. But he acknowledged the shortcomings of the location.

“In selecting a site, we made sure that we looked at the best location, and given the options available to where it could be located ― to pick a location that was available and that would be able to serve both communities ― we recognized the issues with the rail traffic,” the chief said.

Leaders in the fire department have and continue to actively address the issue and have confidence that the drivers of the emergency vehicles will be able to find the best routes to the dispatched emergencies. He said the assigned drivers have developed knowledge of the best routes to take.

“In addition to that, designating or redesignating some of the territories to the closest fire apparatus is going to be important,” Mercer said, “and making sure that not only moving a fire truck but also staffing the medic unit that will be at that station will be an improved response that.”

The station at 651 Laurel Ave. is being replaced because of its age (it was built in 1910), and modern fire engines and ambulances are bigger and heavier than they were a century ago.

Hamilton City Council will vote at its Feb. 22 meeting on whether or not to purchase the proposed site for a relocated Station 26 from the Community Improvement Corporation of Hamilton. The site is two parcels, and the city plans to consolidate them into one parcel. Hamilton intends to use just under $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, officials said.

Downie said he would prefer the city build two smaller firehouses, one to serve the city east of the Grand Boulevard/Mosler Avenue railroad crossing and one in the Lindenwald neighborhood. But admits that’s “probably fiscally impossible.” It’s just that the historic community, he said, has a personal attachment to the Laurel Avenue station.

“We’re kind of a tight community, and we feel like that firehouse, it’s part of our personal property taken away from us,” Downie said, but conceded that whatever the decision is by City Council, “People in Lindenwald, we’re team players and we’ll continue to work with the city for the betterment of the entire city.”

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