The Fort Rucker Directorate of Public Safety held a grand opening and dedication ceremony for its new fire station facility located at Runkle Stagefield in Elba on Dec. 18.

The new station marks the second fire station on Runkle Stagefield. The first station was built in 1976 and will remain in operation primarily for aviation rescue firefighting.

The new station is a 3,800 square foot facility and its primary mission will be aircraft rescue firefighting and pilot extraction from downed aircraft.

Fire Chief Lonnie King said the upgraded facility was “long overdue.” It is a project that was two years in the making from design to completion.

“This is an exciting moment for myself and the department. I hope we can continue this momentum forward,” King said. “I want to thank our previous leadership for beginning this journey and our current leadership for helping us follow through and helping make this station a reality. It will certainly make our firefighters happier and their livelihood better.”

 Lt. Col. Director of Public Safety Phil Lenz said Fort Rucker’s fire department is the largest in the Army and working together is essential.

“We have the largest fire department in the United States Army,” Lenz said. “We’ve got soldiers and we also have civilian firefighters. So, it’s a pretty big entity, and the key piece is them working hand in hand together.”

The new station features several upgrades such as individual bedrooms, an office, a kitchen, a laundry room, and a weight room. Size marks one of the most important aspects of the structure.

“We’re not having to use maintenance bays for multi-purposes. This allows the firefighters to focus on maintaining trucks and increasing the readiness of the overall vehicles without having to have ready rooms and training areas and other administrative functions going on inside the maintenance bay,” Garrison Commander Whitney Gardner said. “The maintenance bay here is a lot larger and a lot more functional that the older fire station. This is one of 13 stagefields, it is utilized for training three times a day, everyday.”

In addition to size, upgraded equipment is another important feature.

“The firetruck you see right now in the background, it’s a very specific mission for aviation rescue firefighting,” Lenz said. “It’s a lot bigger a lot more technical again definitely required for this specific mission.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Fort Rucker Commanders, Directorate of Public Safety and crew pushed a firetruck into the station, a fire service tradition.

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