As of Thursday night, the Petersburg Volunteer Fire Department began responding to emergencies from their new fire hall. Trucks and emergency vehicles, with lights flashing, drove to the new Haugen Drive location and started the process of moving-in.
During the Thursday night move-in over 40 volunteers from all branches of the department (EMS, fire, search and rescue) were present. Locker assignments and bunker gear storage were assigned to each member based upon tenure with the department.
Battalion Chief Jon Stephen is the longest serving volunteer who has been on-board since July 1965. Joining him are volunteers Doug Welde (1969), William Bergmann (1973), Tim Koeneman (1976), and Jim Stolpe (1980).
The newest volunteers on the PVFD roster who joined in 2011 are Shane Lohr, Heath Whitacre, Gene Primaky, Dona Laubhan, Alan Malone, Michael Teem, Matt Pawuk, Jason Baltz, Jerry Laubhan, Skye Weller, Tell Sprague, Annett Wooton and Taylor Norheim.
Seventy volunteers are active in the department at the present time.
Current and former fire fighters and chiefs had nothing but praise for the new facility.
“I love it. It’s been a long time in coming,” said former Chief Dusty Rhoden. Rhoden was chief of the department from 1972 through 1979.
Lt. Dave Berg, who joined the department in 1993, said the new facility eliminated the traffic bottleneck on S. Nordic Drive when volunteers responded from the old hall. “It was a dangerous situation,” said Berg.
“It’s obvious that from the new hall we have better sight lines when responding,” Berg added.
Berg also said the department will have to establish a new halfway point for emergency responses on Sandy Beach Road. “Right now the half-way point on Sandy Beach Road is at Barry Bracken’s house,” said Berg. The emergency caller’s location would determine the department’s route to the scene via Hungry Point or around the Haugen Drive loop, explained Berg.
Former Chief Sam Bunge said of the new station, “The town deserves it. It’s long overdue.”
“There is now room to operate and we have training space. The station will serve the town well for the next 50 years,” he noted.
Bunge also pointed out that volunteers have off-street parking and with the concrete apron, responses will be safer.
Volunteer Dave Berg chuckled when he discovered police department vehicles parked in the fire truck bays when he visited the old station over the weekend.
Even though the PVFD has not totally vacated the space, Chief Jim Agner made use of the covered, heated space to process evidence from both a drug bust and a stolen and vandalized vehicle case the department is investigating.
“The original plan was for that space to be renovated for the police department,” Agner said.
Now the public works department is using a portion of the fire hall space to store materials removed from the city-owned Romiad Building, which is to be torn down this spring.
Chief Agner halfway joked, “I intend to stay there until someone throws me out.”