LOCKPORT – The Lockport Township Fire Protection District has been around for 121 years, and until a few weeks ago the building that was Station 1 had lasted for almost half that time.
But firefighting equipment has changed so much in the last seven decades that the 1959 structure at Seventh and Ninth streets needed to be replaced. Fire trustees and officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking for that replacement Friday morning. Construction equipment began moving actual dirt about an hour later.
The $3.8 million project is scheduled to be completed in February.
"Some men spent their entire careers working out of that building, many children visited as youngsters including some of our members who would go on to work there," Firefighters Local 1544 President Jeremiah Gericke said. "There was some sadness as many people came down for a last look, but at the same time the old [station] was not without its issues."
Fire Chief Dave Skoryi said the old station had insulation and flooding problems, sewer and electrical lines needed to be replaced, most modern equipment was too large to fit in the bay doors and there were no facilities for women firefighters.
"Our board is very fiscally responsible but I appreciate that they saw this had to be done," Skoryi said.
The fire district serves 77,000 people in Lockport, Crest Hill and Romeoville. Station 1 typically responds to calls in central Lockport and the northeast section of Lockport Township.
Deputy Fire Chief Frank Blaskey said the fire engine from Station 1 will operate from Station 4 and the ambulance will be at Station 6 during construction. The Homer Township and Northwest Homer fire districts will also respond for calls near their area, he said.
Lockport fire district President David Palya said the design of the 7,390-square-foot station will reflect the district's past while modernizing the structure.
"There are seven arches that resemble the Seven Arch Bridge that crossed the Des Plaines River in Lockport for over 100 years," Palya said.