It is the longest stretch of time that the station across the streets from City Hall and the Police Department has not been manned since it was built in 1960. The only other time when the station went unoccupied was when a new roof was installed. This time, the station has been evacuated while asbestos floor tiles and ceiling tiles were removed.
Fire Chief Barry Carrier said the asbestos removal was needed if the city plans to continue using the well-maintained and functional building. He said the firefighters on duty can spend 24 hours in the building and always sleep at the station on the nights they are on duty.
“For the guys on the top bunks, the asbestos tiles are only three feet from their heads,” Carrier said. He said there was no problems because the asbestos was not disturbed, but he said it was time to get the asbestos out of the building if it is going to continue to house firefighters.
The asbestos removal cost the city $49,000, Carrier said. The asbestos was removed by a professional crew trained in removal and was disposed of in a special toxic materials landfill.
The firefighters could not be in the building during the removal, but still needed to be staged in proximity of the critical downtown area. Carrier said the men who would normally remain at the station while on duty have been temporarily reassigned to one of two locations. One alternate location is the main station of the Carter County Rescue Squad in the Watauga Industrial Park off Tenn. Highway 91. The second alternate location is Fire Station No. 2 on West G Street next to Kiwanis Park.
The department’s command structure remained at its current location, thanks to the mobile incident command post, which has been parked right next to the station. The fire chief, assistant chief and fire marshal worked out of the command post during the time the fire station was closed.
At the main station, all the furniture has been placed in a central location, away from where the asbestos was being removed. The sleeping quarters no longer have beds, the offices no longer have desks and chairs. Once the new non-asbestos tiles have been installed, all the furniture will be put back and the crews can return to their workplace and home away from home.
Carrier said the station will be getting some upgrades in the future, including locating the department’s ladder truck at the station so that it can arrive quicker to fires in multi-floor buildings in the downtown area. He said an interlocal agreement with the Johnson City Fire Department will mean one of Johnson City’s ladder trucks will respond to fires at Milligan College. In return, Elizabethton Fire Department fire trucks will respond to fires in the westernmost parts of Jonson City that are distant from that city’s fire stations.