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WATAUGA COUNTY –¬†Boone Fire Department is making progress on a third fire station in the Bamboo area, aiming to improve efficiency and ensure equality throughout the district.

Aside from offering better fire protection to east Boone residents, the construction of a third station may help homeowners lower their insurance rates, said Chief Jimmy Isaacs.

Since the fire department purchased the roughly 0.8-acre property in February for $210,000, the building’s transition from residential home to fire station has been steady.

“We started looking at a third station about five years ago,” Isaacs said. “One reason that finding property took so long was because we just had a very, very narrow window that we could put that station in and meet the required purpose.”

Like other fire districts statewide, Boone is rated on a one to 10 scale based on an array of factors, including the location of the stations, equipment availability, access to water supplies and quality of communication systems.

Within Boone town limits, property owners enjoy designation as a public protection class three, Isaacs said, while any properties within five miles of a station are rated class five.

Between five and six miles from a station, properties are noted as class nine, and those outside six miles are rated class 10, resulting in “exorbitant rates for insurance,” Isaacs said.

Isaacs said a small portion of Boone’s district was within that least favorable class designation, including portions of Heavenly Mountain and George Hayes Road.

“This station will do away with all the protection class 10 within the Boone fire district,” Isaacs said.
After looking for property off and on for about four years, the fire department finally settled on a home and land on Buchanan Street off Bamboo Road, not far from Mount Vernon Baptist Church.

Isaacs said small-scale demolition within the house began in March. Walls have been moved, new heating and sprinkler systems are being installed and remodeling is under way.

About a month ago, crews demolished the attached garage to make room for an expanded space with three truck bays. Cinderblocks continued to be delivered Tuesday to begin fleshing out the garage skeleton starting this week.

Isaacs said the goal is to contain costs while ensuring the station’s appearance meshes well with the residential area where it is located.

Funding for the project will come from the rural fire tax, Isaacs said. The garage addition is expected to cost about $350,000. Other costs include remodeling work inside, the purchase of a new engine to be delivered in November or December, and the hiring of one new staff position, he said.

“The main thing that we’re trying to do here was make sure people were seeing a return on their fire tax,” Isaacs said. “Yeah, we’re having to spend some money, but hopefully that will see a return.”

When all is completed, Boone Fire Station 3 will host one tanker, one engine and one pickup truck utility vehicle and will be staffed by one person at all times, Isaacs said.

Isaacs said he hopes the work will be completed by the start of 2014, and residents should begin seeing benefits immediately in their homeowners’ insurance.

“We’ve had some people experience a significant drop. We’ve had people see a minimal drop,” Isaacs said. “It just all depends on who the insurance carrier is.”

Watauga County Fire Marshal Steve Sudderth noted that Boone will be the first department in the county to have three stations. Blowing Rock and Foscoe both have two sites.

“Anytime they build a new station, I’m excited for it,” Sudderth said.

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