Hamburg fire crews used sledge hammers to ceremonially begin demolition of the old fire house to make room for a new station house on April 26.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Kevin Hartman, fire chief for Union Fire Co. No. 1 of Hamburg, located on 4th Street. “We need it. The trucks don’t fit in the station anymore. It’s really a blessing.”

Hartman said the company first started considering an addition in the mid-1980s which did not come to fruition until their current project. The design process with DESCCO began two years ago. The sledge hammer ceremony officially begins the demolition of the old fire station building and an adjacent brick building.

The $1.3 million addition and renovation project replaces the original 1886 building, which was built as the borough hall on the second floor and the fire station on the first floor. The fire company officially purchased the building in 1946 from the borough. The blue building, which was erected in 1976, will remain and will be updated.

“There’s a lot of history that sits behind these walls that dates back to 1832. We still have a horse drawn wagon, the steamer that’s out back,” said Jarrod K. Emes, Deputy Chief. “A lot of folks and a lot of history have walked through the doors over the years.”

The project will be conducted in two parts. Areas of the current plan will include meeting room, emergency operations area, two operations offices, two engine bays, gear room, day room, compressor room, and rehabilitation of the current new engine bays with utility upgrades. The second phase will be for additional operational areas at a later date.

“This will aid the community in providing an updated building for the current operational ability of the department to respond to modern day emergencies, and to support community efforts due to the rapid growth of Northern Berks County and the Hamburg area,” said Emes. “Our goal is to build the volunteer ranks and to improve a faster response time for emergencies for our community.”

Emes said the fire company, with about 35 active members, is excited about the project.

“It’s really an exciting feeling to know that we’re finally here after all of the hard work that we had to do to get to this point,” he said. “We’re just relieved that we’re here finally and they can actually start with the construction phase of it. We can watch the future of the company and the future of the community go forward now. That’s what we’re all excited about.”

The state-of-the-art facility features safety measures that Emes said is very important in regard to gear cleaning, fire fighter safety and maintenance and health initiatives.

"The expansion will now accommodate the larger apparatus, so we’ve taken into account a lot of those things that we were not able to do before,” said Emes.

The design also features energy efficient aspects of new building design that cut down on the overall cost of the project, which is fully funded by the fire department, he said.

“The biggest thing that we had was not to put a financial burden back on the community. We were able to do that with our financial management that we have in place with our community partners,” said Emes.

Project partners are Tompkins VIST Bank as lender, Timothy Cox of Meister-Cox as the architect and DESCCO of Fleetwood as the general project contractor.

Tim Heffner, Vice President and Sr. Project Manager of DESCCO, said design work began about two years ago. The fire company approved the project in October.

“We’re looking forward to working with the fire company to give them a quality project that they’re looking for,” he said. “Giving them exactly what they are looking for, in the price range that they’re looking for… an improved, modern facility for the fire department.”

Hamburg Mayor George Holmes said, “The Union Fire Company is an important part of the fabric that is Hamburg, and we look to them to protect us as we encourage their continued success.”

The project is estimated to be completed by the end of November or December 2019.

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Lisa Mitchell is an editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering news and events in the Northeast Berks County area.

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