NORMAL — A lieutenant with the Normal Fire Department, Matt Bursack had high expectations before the department moved to its new headquarters at 606 S. Main St.
Now, after six weeks in the new digs, Bursack still gets excited when talking about the $9.25 million facility.
“I love it and it is fantastic,” he said. “We were all excited to get here and knew it was going to be beautiful and everything we wanted and needed. It hasn’t disappointed.”
A new, centralized headquarters was a result of a multiyear planning process that calls for replacing existing fire stations with others better positioned to match how the town has grown geographically. The goal is to cut response times to fire and rescue calls, said Fire Chief Mick Humer.
Long-range plans call for building a new station east of Veterans Parkway to replace what is now Station No. 2 — the former department headquarters — at 1300 E. College Ave.
Another one then would be built west of Main Street on Raab Road, closer to Heartland Community College in northwest Normal, to replace Station No. 3, now at 1200 E. Raab Road in the town's northeast corner. That $1.3 million station opened Sept. 27, 1999.
In December, the department closed the former No. 2 station at 604 N. Adelaide St., which opened in 1975 at a cost of $238,000. Through an inter-governmental agreement, the town traded that site to Illinois State University for the land now occupied by the new headquarters, which opened in October.
There have been only minor problems with the new building, Humer said. A small leak and some flooring issues were quickly resolved, but other than that, there have been no problems with the 30,000-square-foot, two-story station, which features four drive-through apparatus bays, a full training center and a commercial kitchen.
“They (the eight firefighters typically on each duty shift) still cook a lot of meals here,” Humer said. “I’m sure after a long day or something like that, it might be easier to go to one of the restaurants around here, but they enjoy the camaraderie that comes with cooking and eating meals together, too.”
Like Bursack, Humer said the new facility is everything he anticipated.
“It has been a very smooth transition,” he said. “I think the only thing that kind of surprises me is that it’s a little bit quieter than I thought it might be. We are pretty close to the road and I thought there would be a lot of traffic noise.
"Really, though, about the only time you are aware of the traffic is if there is a loud motorcycle or a big semi coming through. But, it’s not noticeable at all.”
There is much more foot traffic in the area, of course, then was at the old No.2 facility near the ISU golf course.
“We will probably notice that more in the spring and fall,” Humer said. “It is definitely busier and we don’t have much in the way of people just walking in, anyway.
"But we like the location because the university is certainly an area where we get a lot of calls, and that should help us there.”
“That is something we will evaluate when we get more information,” he said. “It’s just too early to tell and we really don’t have an adequate snapshot to see if there is any difference. But certainly that is important.”
Bursack said he anticipates response times will improve from what they are now once firefighters get used to the new location.
“When we go on a call now, there is usually some discussion on what the best route would be, and then after we get back, we might talk about it, too,” he said. “That is something that we will get used to and benefit from.”