Residents, elected officials and City staff gathered at Lighthouse Point’s newly-constructed fire station for a grand opening ceremony on Jan. 21 that drew close to 300 attendees.
Mayor Kyle Van Buskirk and Fire Chief Robert Weech presided over the ceremony. In addition to members of the Lighthouse Point City Commission, guests included Broward County Mayor Lamar Fisher, State Representative Chip LaMarca and U.S. Representative Jared Moskowitz.
The new two-story fire station, located at 2101 NE 36th Street (Sample Road), includes a state-of-the-art emergency operations center and was built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, which will allow first responders and essential city staff to remain in the city during major storms or other disasters.
The fire station became operational on November 18, 2022, after construction delays related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As we move forward, this fire station is going to be here for generations to come,” said Van Buskirk. “It enhances our city and brings a sense of pride, as we drive down Sample Road, the main corridor of our city, and we look at a beautiful fire station.”
In 2018, Lighthouse Point voters approved a $16.5 million bond to fund five major infrastructure projects in the city, including the new fire station.
The fire station is a “drive-thru” facility, with two ways for fire rescue vehicles to go in and out, and direct access to a major thoroughfare, which eliminates having to drive through local streets to get out of the station, helping to decrease response times.
Van Buskirk thanked the residents of Lighthouse Point for supporting the project. “It’s you who helped us get this accomplished,” he said. “Without you folks, none of this would be happening.”
Van Buskirk said the new fire station will allow the City to operate and provide services to residents “under the most dire circumstances.”
Fire Chief Weech, who took the helm of the Lighthouse Point Fire Department last August, said the fire station/emergency operations center “was built according to all the best practice models.”
Weech said: “I am grateful for our current commissioners, as well as past commissioners, who had the vision and the leadership to get a project like this facility off the ground and completed.”
At the beginning of the grand opening ceremony, Van Buskirk paid tribute to former Mayor Glenn Troast who passed away in March 2022, while serving his third term as mayor.
Van Buskirk, who succeeded Troast as mayor, said Troast was the person who started moving the city toward improving its infrastructure for the future. Van Buskirk presented an appreciation plaque to Troast’s wife Marjorie and his son Evan.
One of Troast’s most significant accomplishments as mayor was his instrumental role in getting the bond issue approved by voters in 2018. A key step in moving the new fire station forward was Troast’s work to secure the property for the new fire station, which was the site of a gas station. The former gas station building had been vacant for about 12 years. For almost four years, Troast was in discussions with the owner of the property, Lighthouse Point resident Jay Lighter, and Lighter finally agreed to sell the land to the City for $1.75 million.
Van Buskirk gave recognition to four former mayors who were seated in the front row – Fred Schorr, Marsha Linville, Bill Sullivan and Leo Bentz – “all of whom have added something to this city to bring us to this day.” Former Lighthouse Point Fire Chief David Donzella was in attendance. Van Buskirk recognized him as “truly one of the first people” to have the vision of building a Category 5 fire station on the site of the former gas station.
Representative Chip LaMarca, a Lighthouse Point resident, read a tribute from the Florida House of Representatives in honor of the grand opening. He also presented Fire Chief Weech a Florida flag that was flown over the state capitol two days prior, just for the occasion.
“After years in the making, Lighthouse Point Fire Station 22 is well-deserved for our first responders who always go above and beyond for our residents,” said LaMarca.
Van Buskirk acknowledged Lighthouse Point resident William Gallo, of Gallo Herbert Architects, who was hired as the City’s representative to oversee the bond projects.
The large stair tower of the fire station features an American flag, measuring 25 feet long and 6 feet wide, which is visible from Sample Road through the tower’s tall plate-glass windows. The flag was donated by Gallo Herbert Architects in memory of former Mayor Glenn Troast.
The grand opening of the fire station concluded with two fire service traditions similar to a ribbon cutting – a hose “uncoupling” ceremony and an engine “push-in” ceremony.
For the uncoupling ceremony, two hoses that had been hooked together were separated, or uncoupled, representing when firefighters finish extinguishing a fire, unhook the hoses, drain the water and put the hoses back on fire trucks to be ready for the next time they’re needed.
Weech explained the “push-in” ceremony as a tradition that dates to the late 1800s, when fire departments used hand-drawn pumpers and horse-drawn equipment. Upon returning to the fire station after a call, the horses couldn’t easily back the equipment into the station, so they were disconnected from the fire equipment and firefighters would push the equipment back into the bays themselves.
Weech invited residents to join him at the front of Engine 22 to symbolically “push” the vehicle, while the driver slowly backed it into the station.
Following the grand opening ceremony, residents were able to take tours of the new fire station.