MIDDLEWAY, W.Va. — This winter, when an alarm comes into the Middleway Fire Co., its volunteers send out a pumper from its heated garage.
If it's a big fire and they need the tanker, they fill it up at a fire hydrant three miles away. There's no room for it in the two-bay temporary garage that serves as the fledgling department's firehouse.
"We have to drain the water out of it so it won't freeze," said Mike Mood, Middleway's fire chief. "And we have to plug in the ambulance to an electric heater because it stays outside, too."
Those problems began to melt away Saturday morning in a vacant field a half-mile south of the village of Middleway when Mood, standing in a line of shovel-wielding dignitaries, ordered them to "take out a scoop of dirt and we'll get started."
Mood was officiating over the groundbreaking of the company's first firehouse a 7,000-square-foot, six-bay building that can house up to 10 vehicles. Its current six-vehicle fleet consists of an ambulance, two pumpers, the tanker, and rescue and utility vehicles.
The new firehouse will provide the company with office and meeting space, a modern kitchen and enough room to serve as Middleway's first community center, Mood said.
The building, which will be ready by early summer, will cost $700,000. The money will come from, among other sources, Jefferson County commercial impact fees and a $450,000 Bank of Charles Town loan that the fire company's 18 volunteers have to pay back with $3,600 monthly payments.
The Middleway Fire Co., the county's newest and seventh volunteer department, got its start two years ago when the Jefferson County Commission approved its organization.
"I've been watching this develop for several years," County Commissioner Frances Morgan said at the groundbreaking. "These volunteers have selflessly given their time to work through this very complex process. They've had to deal with finances, operations and the state fire marshal. This will offer better ambulance and fire protection in this part of the county, and will save money on property insurance for homeowners."
Middleway's first-due coverage area runs west to the Berkeley County line, then east along W.Va. 51 to Dark Lane, south to the Virginia state line and north to Old Leetown Pike.
Coverage there used to be shared by the Independent and Citizens fire companies in Charles Town, W.Va.
Mood said Middleway averages about 140 fire calls a year and projects that ambulance calls will run upwards of 200 per year.