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New fire station for Alton

Not too long ago the Alton Fire Department had a call concerning a girl of about 2 years old. They tended to the child and gave her CPR but the fire crew didn’t know what happened to her once she was transported to the hospital.

It was one of those calls that left everyone in silence when they returned to their station, Omar Salinas Jr. said.

“There was several different types of emotions but in here, at the station, we’re able to talk to each other and get those emotions out because we need to,” Salinas said. “We’re all human beings.”20151106 3354

The station is their home. The paid crew leaves their families and stays at the station 24-7 when they’re on duty. They wake together, eat together and pray at the table together, Salinas said.

But a little more than two months ago, the department moved to a new home.

Located next to city hall, is the Alton Fire Department’s new two-story station.

The first floor includes offices, a classroom for the state-certified fire academy, a break room and quarters for the city’s emergency ambulance provider.

The station’s second floor includes four dorm rooms, three full bathrooms, a full-sized kitchen, dinning area and living room.

“Coming from the old fire department to here, it’s like the suburbs,” Salinas said with a laugh. “It’s fantastic. We have nothing to complain about.”

The facility cost about $1.5 million. Half of the money came as a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the other half came as a loan for $300,000 for the upstairs facility.

Construction took about two and half years, including a sixth-month delay.

“As city officials we tend to focus on projects like this because it’s an easy way to show our public the return for the investment they’re making in their own city,” City Manager Jorge Arcaute said. “Alton is about the people, it’s about the employees.”

At the ribbon cutting ceremony Nov. 4, the station was awarded a certificate of congressional recognition from the office Congressman Henry Cuellar.

There’s a lot of pride that goes into taking care of the station, Salinas said. He brushed off the beds as he toured the facility and his smiled widened when he spoke of the cabinets for each individual crew.

“To see everybody come together to get this just for us, it’s very humbling because we really do work a lot and we work hard,” the 34-year-old said. “This (station) right here gives us an opportunity for us to come together as a family and talk about what we need to talk about in order for us to keep going.”

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