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Firefighters say they're out of space

June 21, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Citizens Volunteer Fire Co. in Charles Town has started a $2.5 million campaign to replace a fire hall that has been rendered obsolete by the Eastern Panhandle's population boom, according to the organization's president.

"With the growth we've had, the fire hall is already 20 years behind schedule. We're building this station for the future, not yesterday," Citizens President Doug McDonough said.

The company's 40-year-old building on the corner of Northwest and Washington streets in Charles Town is about 25 percent the size it needs to be to house all of Citizens' firefighting equipment and does not provide the necessary space for training personnel or holding meetings, McDonough said.

The current station also lacks sufficient parking for the company's 30-odd volunteers, who now must find spaces in which to park their cars before they leave on a fire call, he said.

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Citizens Fire Co. responded to 498 calls in 1998 in Jefferson County and the surrounding area, McDonough said.

Steering committee members for the new fire hall project last year paid $200,000 for a 7.5-acre piece of land near W.Va. 9 and W.Va. 340 in Charles Town and have retained an architect to design a combination fire station and community center, McDonough said.

The new building would have a six-vehicle bay, larger meeting rooms, indoor and outdoor training areas for firefighters and a kitchen that could be rented out for catering, he said.

The overall cost of the project will be $2.5 million, but McDonough said the fire company has set an initial goal to raise $1.25 million in order to break ground on the facility by next spring.

"Raising enough money is not going to be an easy task, but I think we can do it with the support of the people," said James M. Davis, a longtime Citizens Fire Co. supporter who is helping with the fund-raising effort.

Davis said he has lived in Jefferson County for about 35 years and has watched an "astronomical amount" of residential growth over that time.

A new fire hall is vital to making sure Citizens is able to continue providing its current level of fire service to the area, Davis said.

"It's going to be difficult, but we can do it," he said. "We can do it because it has to be done if we want to have the type of fire protection we all opt for."

McDonough said Citizens has invested $1 million in new firefighting equipment over the past few years and estimated the fire company contributes about $450,000 to Jefferson County residents each year in equipment usage and volunteer time.

The first fund-raiser for the new building will be a parade and community event on July 31 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Charles Town Races. Plans call for the day to feature food, music, cars and contests, according to fund-raiser organizers.

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