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The construction site of the new Athens Fire Department headquarters on East Stimson Avenue, Oct. 8, 2023, in Athens, Ohio.

AFD new fire department can decrease response time for students

The Athens Fire Department, or AFD, plans to relocate to a new headquarters on East Stimson Avenue in response to their current facility on Columbus Road deteriorating from age.  

“Since 2005 we’ve put in close to $600,000 into the station to keep it standing, ” Rymer said. “(The department on Columbus Road) is almost 60 years old. So an engineer looked at it and said, 'Okay look, this thing is crumbling and falling apart, you need to build a new station.’”

Construction for the headquarters is underway at 120 E. Stimson Ave. Rymer said the funding for this project comes from an increase in the Athens income tax from 1.85% to 1.95%. Although AFD is receiving funds for the new building, it does not extend into those for staffing and it will remain the same even with the new headquarters.  

“Where we relocated, the station is going to put us more central in the city,” Rymer said. “Next to the bypass for quick response. Closer to the campus for quicker response. So that will help as far as response time to a lot of large infrastructure areas in the city.”

This will be the closest station to campus, which should aid greatly in alarms that go off. According to the AFD’s 2021 annual reporthe AFD responded to 911 total fire calls in Athens.

“We go to the front four quite often, Pickering, Brown, Mackinnon and Crawford Halls,” Rymer said. “If we're going there from where the station is going to be located, we should be able to get there in a lot less time than from where we are coming off the hill now."

Students at Ohio University are well acquainted with fire alarms on campus. Jill Harris, manager of emergency programs at OU, said from January to September 2023, 56 fire alarms sounded in the front four buildings but there were no reported fires.

“Even if we aren't evacuating, I can definitely hear other dorms on the front four evacuating,” said Mary McEwen, a freshman studying political science.

McEwen said AFD usually responds to the fire alarms in her buildings in about five minutes. Students evacuate the halls to a safe distance and wait for the fire department to permit re-entry. McEwen said they are normally outside for around 15 to 20 minutes.

“I feel like we’re wasting their time and resources because of how many times the fire alarms go off versus how many times there's an actual problem that needs fire department involvement,” McEwen said.

Harris said 30 of the 56 alarms in the front four were caused by students and 25 of the alarms were caused for no apparent reason. One of the alarms had a miscellaneous cause. Alarms caused by no apparent reason include being set off by hairspray, vaping or alarm equipment issues.

“Hopefully, when (the new department) is established, the evacuations won't take so long, and we can get back into our dorms. Especially in the middle of the night,” McEwen said. 


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