NOCATEE, Fla. – Nocatee is the third-fastest growing community in the country and home to almost 3,500 people. To deal with that jump in population, St. Johns County built a new fire station to help cover the area.
Open for emergencies, station 18 in Nocatee has been responding to calls for the past couple of weeks but has its grand opening Saturday.
St. Johns County Fire Rescue said the county noticed there was a need for a station in the growing neighborhood because of response times.
"We've dealt with multiple things. We've had several brush fires in the area and we've had a lot of fire alarm type stuff, auto accidents, a lot of medical calls," Capt. Jeremy Robshaw with St. Johns County Fire Rescue, said.
Another big benefit to Nocatee residents are potentially lower insurance rates due to having better fire coverage.
"What we suggest to residents is to make contact with your company and let them know the fire station is operational now. Based on that they will look at current classification according to insurance and make a determination whether your rate will reduce," Robshaw said.
The county wasn't able to afford the station for a few more years, but land developer PARC Group stepped up and donated the land, paid for the construction and paid for the firetrucks.
But there still are some concerns about funding. In order to staff the station, the county does have to pay for 18 new firefighters.
Right now, the station is not fully staffed as they wait to find out if they are approved for a $2.2 million federal grant to pay for those new positions. Known as the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, grant, the money is used to help provide staffing for in need rescue stations.
"We are still in the process of getting a grant with the federal government, a SAFER grant, we have not received word on the application to date, so we are anxiously waiting to see if that comes through and are hopeful that it will provide long term stability for the station," Robshaw said.
Until they find out, the station is staffed with five firefighters plus a battalion chief from nearby station 17.
"It certainly changed some of the staffing at the other stations but not necessarily affecting it," Robshaw said. "We've been able to utilize the existing staffing to provide a basic level staffing for the station until we hear from the grant."
If the grant does not come through for the fire station by early fall, costs for staffing will likely fall into the county's budget.
The department expects the new station to have about 800-1000 calls within its first year.
Residents wanting to check out the new station, there is an open house Saturday morning at 11 a.m. where there will be live music, free food and bounce houses for kids.