JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Residents in the Bartram Springs neighborhood have struggled for years to get a fire station closer to them.
Now the wait is over. The grand opening of Station 62 on Thursday not only means more safety, but insurance rates for those homeowners have been cut in half.
The station is located on Bartram Park Boulevard near U.S. Highway 1 and Old St. Augustine Road.
Before that, the closest fire station was further north, about eight miles away -- Station 54, located on U.S. 1 near the Avenues Mall.
In the past, victims of house fires have said they had to wait as long as 15-20 minutes before help arrived.
A fire in December 2010 demonstrated the problem in the Bartram Springs and Bartram Park neighborhoods. It took firefighters 15 minutes to get there, and the home was destroyed.
Other fires also occurred that took firefighters much longer than the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department's desired response time.
Now with the new fire station open, residents say it's a relief.
"Today is huge for us as a community, for response time and for us, me included, as a homeowner in Bartram Springs," said Roger Sulimirski.
The fast-growing community has some of the highest insurance rates in the city, with some families paying as high as $1,800 more a year than most Jacksonville residents.
"The 8,000 residents points in Bartram Springs and Bartram Park were getting destroyed on their insurance rates, and they really did not have adequate protection," JFRD Chief Marty Senterfitt said.
The station was the only big project approved in last year's city budget. It cost $2.4 million to build.
"Everyone realized even with the tough economic times we still have to do the right thing," Senterfitt said.
Now with this station staffed and operating, the payoff is evident.
"It's going to save taxpayers a lot of money," Mayor Alvin Brown said. "It's going to save homeowners and business owners a lot of money."
But officials say more than saving money, it may save a life.
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