FRONT ROYAL - After years of inhabiting a decrepit building, the Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department is one step closer to getting a new home as ground recently broke on its $5.6 million new facility.
The department’s current building at 714 Rivermont Drive has been plagued with issues including buckling walls held up by a wooden brace and a condemned second due to fear of collapse. The department has operated out of that facility - which was built around the late 1920s - since it formed in 1954.
Joe Woodall, Rivermont’s assistant fire chief, said there has also been water running through the building “even when it doesn’t rain.” This, he said, led to mold issues that resulted in the closing of the living quarters and office space during a $20,000 project to remove the mold.
“It hinders the department because who wants to come down to a building covered in mold that’s being held up with temporary braces?” Woodall said.
Those problems will be a thing of the past in September 2020, when Warren County General Services Director Brandy Rosser said construction is expected to be completed on the department’s new facility on a 5.7-acre parcel at the corner of Stokes Airport Road and Rivermont Drive.
Woodall said the department is “crossing our fingers the current building will last until then.”
“If something did happen and we couldn’t use the current building, we would figure something out, so our community didn’t go without fire and E.M.S. protection. We just hope we can make it until September 2020,” Woodall said.
He said one major issue until then is that the station cannot be staffed overnight due to safety concerns.
“Safety is number one in fire service. You always protect your people,” Woodall said.
According to previous reports, construction plans call for for a one-story 15,250-square-foot building with three drive-through bays, overnight accommodations and a community meeting space that will be the Fork District’s polling location. It should meet the station’s needs for 50 years.
Woodall noted that the department’s operational procedures will greatly change once it moves into the new building, pointing to the fact that staff will be able to stay overnight.
“That alone is a huge morale booster and huge for the community itself,” he said.
He added that the new building will have rooms for in-house training and meetings and “we don’t have to worry about someone slipping and falling in a creek that runs through the building.”
“It’s going to be a huge change for all of us. But a change for the better,” he said.
Woodall said that hopefully, the new building will increase the morale of a department whose members already get along well with each other.
“We are a family. We bicker and fight but at the end of the day, we come together for each other. I hope that trend continues once we move and hopefully recruit and retain new members,” he said.
As for the land on which the current station sits, Woodall said the department would like to give it “back to the community.” He said perhaps it could be turned into a park with picnic shelters or a community center of some sort. Although the exact future use is uncertain, he said “we just know we want it to be a community gathering place.”