V.I. Fire Service reopens Dorothea station
Published: October 8, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - On Monday, the V.I. Fire Service dedicated a newly reopened fire station in Dorothea after four years of delays in the renovation of the satellite facility intended to serve the North Side.
St. Thomas-St. John District Fire Chief Andre Smith said one truck will be allocated from the Bordeaux station to the Dorothea station. All other stations will remain open, and the Dorothea station will be manned by four firefighters 24/7.
Smith also said that the reallocation of the truck from the Bordeaux station will not affect the Fire Service's ability to cover the West End. The truck originally had belonged to the Dorothea fire station and is simply being returned.
Of more concern to Smith is that the Fire Service in the district is operating at a bare minimum. If levels drop, he said, overtime will have to be deployed to continue to man all stations. Smith said that it would be optimal if he could add 24 positions to the current staff total of 130 in the district.
"Every department in government has had to bite the bullet when it comes to staffing. We are at the bare minimum right now. We do anticipate getting some new recruits by the end of this year, and we have been fortunate because we have not had too many letters of resignation this year," Smith said.
In the summer of 2003, the Dorothea fire station was closed because of staffing shortages, but it reopened in 2004.
The station was named the Emile C. Berry Fire Station and Multipurpose Center in honor of a North Side resident who was the first firefighter of French descent from the North Side and who joined the department in 1972.
Smith said the new Dorothea station is strategically located on the North Side to shorten the response time to fires in that area. Because the station has been closed, trucks from other stations have had a hard time traversing the steep mountain roads on the North Side with the large amount of water they must carry.
The station is also key in terms of providing back up and manpower to other stations, Smith said.
"It is a satellite station," Smith said. "Whenever there is a fire in Bordeaux or any other sector, those at Dorothea will provide assistance."
The station had been accommodating firefighters serving the North Side off and on since 1995 until it was finally closed in 2009 because it was "too small and starting to deteriorate," Smith said.
Staffing shortages and problems with the building, including a rat infestation, prompted the Fire Service to begin a renovation project in May 2009, but less than a year later, the renovation was abandoned when it was determined that the building was so structurally flawed that it needed to be scraped and rebuilt from the ground up, according to Daryl George, assistant director of the V.I. Fire Service.
The new station has a 52,000-gallon cistern and living quarters, a dining room and a study area.
About $822,000 was earmarked for the renovation project in a capital projects bond issue in 2009. The Fire Service also received $500,000 in reprogrammed funds for buildings and improvements in Fiscal Year 2009, which was put toward the Dorothea project. In 2011, when a contractor was not meeting deadlines, the entire project had to be put out to bid again, and Custom Builders was awarded the new contract to finish the job, according to George.
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