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The long-awaited Columbus Fire Station 35 quietly opened its doors to serve Far East Side residents Monday, and residents of the area couldn't be happier.
"One of the casualties of the current (coronavirus outbreak) is any kind of public gathering to celebrate the opening," said Battalion Chief Steve Martin.
The firefighters did follow one tradition when the $11.5 million station at 711 N. Waggoner Road opened. Firefighters pushed a paramedic vehicle into the building.
Martin said the tradition is a connection to firehouses back in the 1800s, when firefighters had to unhitch their fire equipment from the horses that pulled it and push it back into its bay.
Were it not for coronavirus precautions, the city certainly wanted to celebrate the state-of-the-art firehouse in a bigger way.
For more than 12 years, the city had talked about building a fire station to serve the burgeoning growth on the city's eastern edge beyond Interstate 270 near the Licking County line.
Up until Monday, residents there were served by a Columbus Fire Station 5 on McNaughten Road. That meant that fire and paramedic units had to wind their way through congested traffic on East Broad Street at rush hours to get to North Waggoner Road. An estimated 75,000 cars a day travel East Broad Street between Waggoner and Interstate 270.
Frequently, the Jefferson Township Fire Department -- which has a mutual aid agreement -- would get to calls along and off the North Waggoner Road corridor first. Station 35 will substantially cut down response times to the thousands of homes in residential and and apartment developments along North Waggoner.
One advantage of the delay in building Station 35 is that many more advanced safety features were incorporated into the new facility.
There is a transitional space of five lockers and showers where firefighters and paramedics can take off their smoke-covered gear and shower, Martin said. Firefighters are routinely exposed to chemicals and are at least 14% more likely than the public to develop cancer, The Dispatch reported in "Unmasked," an award-winning series in 2017.
"The community is so excited. I have seen so many posts on Facebook welcoming the new fire station," said Jennifer Chamberlain, who is a member of the Far East Area Commission.
One of the Facebook posts, from Stefanie Cronin, said: "Everyone still working should beep as they drive by...We could share our excitement and welcome them with a honk."
Chamberlain said the new Station 35 is important for residents of the Far East Side. She said there has been also some recent additional development on McNaughten Road near Station 5, which probably presented more response time obstacles for Columbus Fire.
The new station arrives at a very busy time for all fire paramedics, who are on the front lines of responding to those stricken with COVID-19.
"We are pretty happy this came about when it did," Chamberlain said.
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