By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
TULARE COUNTY – Gerald Lindsay has seen a lot of changes to fire service in Tulare County since he began as a volunteer firefighter in 1974. He has seen his job switch from fire response to medical aides, engines get larger and more complex, and the use of new technology such as Jaws of Life and thermal imaging. The one thing that hasn’t changed for Lindsay is where he reported for work.
Lindsay has spent his entire 45-year career as a firefighter and engineer at the fire station at Lovers Lane and Walnut in Visalia. Known as Fire Station 1, the station is owned by CalFire, which used to provide fire service to Tulare County when it was known as the California Department of Forestry and Fire (CDF). Lindsay started in 1974 as a volunteer firefighter for CDF’s Tulare Unit and then continued to respond to calls when the County of Tulare broke off and formed its own fire department in 2006, when the station became a joint use facility between the state fire agency and the fledgling county agency. But this time next year, Lindsay will report to a new Fire Station 1.
On April 16, the Tulare County Fire Department broke ground on its first ever fire station at the corner of Lovers Lane (Road 140) and Avenue 256 south of Visalia. Its completion will mark the end of county staff operating out of the CalFire facility but the Station 1 name will be carried on at the new facility.
“This new fire station is a result of the forward thinking and investment efforts made by previous members of the Board of Supervisors and the continued efforts of the current Board to carry out these investments,” shared Chairman Kuyler Crocker, County Supervisor representing District One. “Investing in our public safety departments is of utmost importance and this new facility will better enhance the safety needs to this area of the County.”
In an effort to strategically enhance the County›s public safety services, the new station will provide a permanent County-owned facility that is also centrally located in the area of response. The new location will be at Avenue 256 and Road 140 (Lovers Lane), south of Visalia and adjacent to the County’s Transportation and Maintenance and Animal Services facilities.
“This new location will be instrumental in meeting our goals to reduce risks to public safety and provide compassionate service to those in need,” stated Tulare County Fire Chief, Charlie Norman at the groundbreaking event. “Our new fire station will provide for quicker responses to the neighboring schools and communities in this area.”
Retired Fire Capt. Ron Parish, who lives about a mile from the site, said the groundbreaking was welcome news to people in the area. The 50-year fire service veteran said there has always been a large hole in this area of the county’s coverage map for fire response, leaving Sundale and Outside Creek, as well as ag operations and mobile homes in the area without a nearby station. The station is the halfway point between Tipton and Ivanhoe, Tulare and Exeter, Strathmore and Goshen, and strategically the second response for mutual aides with every city fire department with the exception of Dinuba.
“This area was really remote before,” Parish said. “This will really impact the safety of the surrounding community.”
Lindsay, Parish, and Engineer Jack Willingham all worked together as volunteers at the current Fire Station 1. Lindsay said the biggest difference between the two stations will be staffing. The county’s current Station 1 does not have any fulltime firefighters and is only staffed by volunteers. The new Station 1 will be a fully staffed station, where volunteers will receive be bolstered by fulltime county firefighters.
In addition to housing fire personnel, the new facility will also include a community room to allow for public outreach and community involvement for nearby schools.
Construction of the new fire station is estimated to cost $4 million and is fully funded by the County›s Capital Projects fund. The station is set to be completed and fully operational early next year. Construction of the project was awarded to Forcum Mackey Construction, Inc. of Ivanhoe.
“Having a place to call home is the American Dream,” Chief Norman said. “Our department is finally realizing that dream.”