JFRD breaks ground on Westside fire station, backup 911 center

The new facility, Fire Station 73, will also house an advanced life support unit

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new fire station and backup 911 call center will soon allow firefighters to get to emergencies on Jacksonville’s Westside a whole lot quicker.

City leaders and first responders broke ground Wednesday on the new facility, which will be located along Aviation Avenue near 103rd Street not far from Cecil Field.

The project was funded in part by a $1.6 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.

Preliminary sketches provide a glimpse of what Fire Station 73 will look like, as well as the neighboring building that will house the emergency dispatch operation. 

Wednesday’s groundbreaking comes a year after Hurricane Irma’s storm surge swamped downtown Jacksonville, threatening the existing 911 call center.

The backup 911 system will ensure that people aren’t left in the dark should the primary call center lose power in severe weather, said City Councilman Randy White, a retired assistant fire chief.

“I’m surprised that downtown didn’t get more flooded and mess up the communications center, but we might not be so fortunate next time,” White said. “This will give us a good place to go.”

The existing call center, which handles dispatch for the Sheriff’s Office and fire department, takes about 1.2 million emergency calls a year. The city has been looking into a contingency plan for years.

Authorities said the location on Aviation Avenue, which is positioned well inland of the coastline, is ideal because there’s a lower risk of storm damage – and the city already owned the land.

Not only are the new fire station and additional staffing expected to cut down on emergency response times on the Westside, it could also help bring some homeowners’ insurance bills down.

The current Insurance Services Offices, or ISO, rating in that part of the city is high because of a lack of fire stations, meaning there is more risk for insurers to cover properties in the area.

The fire station and new call center are anticipated to be completed next summer.