by Christie Knudsen, Public Education Specialist South Trail Fire Department
Residents of Gateway may have noticed the new sign on Gateway Boulevard and Fairway Lakes Drive announcing the future home of South Trail Fire & Rescue Station #65. The 6 in Station #65 is an identifier used for all South Trail fire stations and apparatus, and delineates South Trail from other fire departments in Lee County. Once Station #65 is built, South Trail Fire & Rescue will have five fire stations strategically located throughout the District’s 55 square mile service area to serve approximately 62,000 residents, 24-hours a day, and 365 days a year.
It will be 4-5 years before Station #65 is actually built. Long-range planning is essential in providing emergency services to a growing, changing community. The South Trail Board of Commissioners identified the growth in the northeastern portion of the Gateway community, and knew that the emergency response time to that area from Station #64 in southwest Gateway would increase as well. As communities build-out, finding affordable and available land for a fire station can be a difficult task, so when the parcel on Gateway Boulevard became available, the Fire Commissioners purchased it for the future fire station. Paying for a fire station that can cost $2-3 million also requires long-range planning. The South Trail Fire Commissioners will pay for the construction of the station with funds saved for that purpose, i.e., with no financing.
Although South Trail began providing emergency services as a volunteer fire department in 1965, and then as an independent fire control district in 1976, it wasn’t until 1995 that the South Trail Fire & Rescue District started providing services to the Gateway community. Previously, the Lee County Port Authority had provided emergency services in Gateway. In 1996, the residents of Gateway voted to be officially annexed into the District, and in 2001, South Trail Fire Station #64 opened on Commonwealth Drive in Gateway.
The entire South Trail Fire District has grown dramatically over the years—responding to 1,319 emergency calls in 1984, 4,585 calls in 1998 and to 8,697 calls in 2016. New, permitted construction throughout the District includes numerous senior living facilities, medical buildings and hospital expansion, shopping centers with new restaurants and a Whole Foods Market. The South Trail Fire District continues to be a wonderful place to live, visit, and work, and the South Trail personnel are committed to providing the highest quality fire and rescue services to a growing, changing community.
For more information on the South Trail Fire & Rescue District visit www.southtrailfire.org. The monthly meeting of the South Trail Fire and Rescue District Board of Commissioners will be held at 5:30 p.m. on July 17, at Station #63, 5531 Halifax Avenue. The public is invited.