Wilmington Fire Chief Buddy Martinette addressed the Wilmington City Council at its monthly meeting Tuesday, July 8.
Martinette delivered a presentation about the Firefighters’ Memorial in Empire Park Fire Station and addressed the Fire Station Replacement Plan.
The Firefighters’ Memorial features a steel beam recovered from the World Trade Center, a tribute to 343 firefighters killed Sept. 11, 2001. A bronze firefighter holds the beam, and seven pairs of bronze boots surround the memorial, representing the seven Wilmington firefighters who have died in the line of duty.
Martinette said people passing on the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail frequently stop to admire the memorial, and he hopes it will become a tourist attraction in the future.
“There are few days when somebody doesn’t stop and pay a visit to that memorial to learn about our firefighters and the great sacrifices that they make,” Martinette said.
He detailed the process of creating the memorial, from the initial brainstorming of concepts, to the fundraising, to the long hours of construction and finally the dedication Sept. 11, 2013.
The council unanimously accepted the donation of the memorial.
“This is a testament to all the people who gave up their heart and soul to make this happen,” said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo. “We’re very proud of what you’ve been able to do for our fire department.”
Martinette updated the city council about the Fire Station Replacement Plan, which involves replacing four of Wilmington’s fire stations, the oldest of which was built 42 years ago, with two improved facilities in new locations.
The replacement plan would alter the total number of fire stations in Wilmington from 11 to nine, although Martinette stressed that when measuring their call processing time, reaction time and travel time, they would still fall within the 90th percentile.
Wilmington Fire Department public information officer David Hines also pointed out two of the locations that would see slightly longer response time: New Hanover Regional Medical Center and University of North Carolina at Wilmington, each with its own security force, smoke alarm system and sprinkler system.
Martinette said that property had already been purchased for the new stations, located on Cinema Drive and Shipyard Boulevard. Finding larger plots of land was necessary so that each facility could have a retention pond and therefore meet updated storm water requirements.
Martinette and Hines agreed the new stations were being built with major improvements to accommodate current needs and also plan for future developments.
“You can’t put a number on how different these stations are in regards to being modern,” Martinette said. “The sleeping areas are closer to the bay area to cut firefighter reaction time. The bays are wider and taller. We have a community meeting room, and now the EMS runs out of the station too.”