A “pocket” fire station got its official start Monday in the busy Harts Road and Dunn Avenue area, where it will aid established units nearby.
Station 64 will be built on the site of a former bank just north of Dunn Avenue. The station’s fire engine and rescue unit was parked Monday behind a pile of dirt used for a groundbreaking ceremony involving the mayor, fire chief and others.
For one of those with a ceremonial shovel, the history of that area next to two former troubled motels is the reason he is glad the fire station should be done in 255 days.
“For the last few years, Dunn Avenue, specifically Harts Road, has been plagued with violence,” said City Councilman Reggie Gaffney Jr., who represents that district. “Over the last two years, we have had numerous, thousands of calls, deaths, non-emergencies and emergencies. Today is an investment in our community. Today we are showing that Harts Road and public safety is a priority.”
This is not the only fire station being built or soon to start, Chief Keith Powers said. Reeling off a list of eight more stations that are planned or under construction, Powers called this a “great day” for public safety.
“This area needs a fire station to reduce response times,” Powers said. “The problem in this area is not being greater than 5 road miles from the closest fire station. You have Stations 34 on that side, and 37 on this side. The problem is the run volume is so high here that we need to put a pocket station in here to handle the number of runs.”
Station 64 is the ninth fire station started by the city in the past two years and is just west of Interstate 95 in a community full of businesses, homes and lots of traffic. The station was recommended in a consultant’s 2006 study of future needs, approved by the Jacksonville City Council. It also was recommended in the 2020 National Fire Services study, City Council President Terrence Freeman said.
The new station was budgeted at $8.1 million for land purchase, construction and new equipment and will add “much-needed” services to the community west of I-95, Freeman said.
Some of that need has been represented by recent violent crime within sight of the future station, as Gaffney stated.
In late 2020, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation suspended the business license of the Gold Rush Inn at 10885 Harts Road, after a 34-year-old man had been found dead near the motel a month earlier, news partner Florida Times-Union reported.
The emergency suspension order stated that the 89-unit Gold Rush Inn, one of three motels on the busy road just north of Dunn Avenue, had shown “abject disregard” for the health and safety of its guests by continuing to operate despite “deadly violence” there.
At the time, the Gold Rush Inn also was a trouble spot for the Sheriff’s Office, with 800-plus police calls in 2020 ranging from domestic violence to armed assaults and homicides. That included a 20-year-old man who was shot and critically injured in the parking lot, police said. Early on Nov. 21, 2020, a man was found shot to death inside a crashed car close to the motel, and two men were shot to death June 23, 2020, outside the Gold Rush.
Fire stations to come
Station 65’s groundbreaking was in late March just north of the Grove Park and Glynlea communities with room for an engine, rescue unit and up to 10 firefighters. In October, the city broke ground on Fire Station 75 at Firestone Road. Two more groundbreakings are coming this year: Station 47 on Lannie Road on the Northside and Station 76 on Cedar Point Road, fire officials said.
Other recent station openings include the $7 million Station 63 that opened in October 2021 on Gate Parkway. It replaced a temporary site that opened in 2019 to serve 4,000 businesses, 5,000 homes and 30 apartment complexes in an ever-growing coverage area, Powers said. And the city just opened Station 74 at Meeting Street off Florida 9B in the eTown, Nocatee and surrounding area.