As soon as Truck 312 crossed the threshold shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday, the new Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company substation at Patterson Mill went into service.
The new station, which has been close to two decades in the making, was officially dedicated Saturday afternoon by dozens of volunteers not only from Bel Air, but also from fire companies across Harford County.
The fire service members and their families were joined by members of the community and county elected officials.
The new fire station marks the culmination of many years of study, planning and construction, according to master of ceremonies and Harford County Councilman Jim McMahan. The dedication had a very personal side for him, he said.
"It's part of my life. The fire company is near and dear to me because I am a life member. My dad was also a life member," McMahan said.
"Operationally and strategically," Bel Air Chief Eddie Hopkins said, the new station is needed.
"Although we are less than four miles from our main station, it is critical that we are in the community we serve," he said, adding the Bel Air South community will benefit from faster response times, rapid access to emergency medical services and outreach for recruitment of new members, among other things.
And Bel Air's friendly rival, Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company, was kind enough to supply the outhouse for the occasion – emblematic of a long-running "feud" between the two companies.
"All I know is I left here at 11 last night and when I showed up at 8 this morning, it was here," Hopkins joked.
The $2.8 million fire station, built on county land that was deeded to the fire company Saturday, was a cooperative project between the fire company and Harford County government, Bel Air VFC President Tony Coliano said.
Coliano called Saturday's dedication an "extraordinary moment."
"This is the first station fully funded by the county and deeded to Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company," he said.
The station will provide fire and emergency medical service to an area of the county that has grown significantly in the last 20 years.
"Be assured Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company will continue to provide the community a safe place to live and work now and in the future," Coliano said.
Among the community members attending the dedication was Michelle Davis, who lives just down Patterson Mill Road. She brought her sons, Ethan, 6, and Evan, 3.
"The kids want to be firefighters," Davis said. "We've been watching their progress, and they're thrilled."
The government's job is to provide services to the community it serves, and providing emergency services is one of the most important," Harford County Executive David Craig, who also attended, said.
"And we do it all with volunteers in Harford County," Craig said.
The Patterson Mill substation project kept getting bigger and more expensive, as the economy kept getting worse, Craig noted.
"But we stuck with it because we knew we needed it in Harford County," he said.
The new station will house one ambulance and one fire truck and will be manned round-the-clock by emergency medical personnel.
While it didn't technically go into service until around 1 p.m., a crew answered a call just as the dedication ceremony was getting started. A crew setting up at the station Saturday morning also answered a cardiac arrest call, Hopkins said.
Coliano noted some of the green aspects of the building include a shared stormwater pond with the Patterson Mill school complex next door, low-flow water fixtures and the use of low-level VOCs when possible.
The deed for the fire company property was handed from Craig, representing the county government, to Coliano, the company president, who passed it to Hopkins, the chief, saying: "Chief Hopkins, this building is yours. Operate it well, and don't run the bills up too high."