After 20 years of planning and working with the Harford County government to bring the project to fruition, the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company's new Patterson Mill substation is basically finished and ready to go into service.
The station will be fully operational Nov. 10, Eddie Hopkins, Bel Air's fire chief, said. It will be dedicated the same day.
"Personally, it's very satisfying," Hopkins, who is also Bel Air's mayor, said about the station's completion. "It's been a very long process."
The substation, which cost $2.8 million to construct, was one of the first projects on David Craig's desk when he became county executive in 2005.
Operated by BAVFC, it is also the first firehouse in Harford County to be built solely with county funding.
Previously, fire companies would fund all construction of stations, or with a combination of fire company and government funding.
The purpose of the substation, Hopkins noted, is to "bring fire and EMS protection much closer to the Bel Air South area."
The main station on Hickory Avenue is a little more than two miles away from the Patterson Mill station. There is also a substation in Forest Hill, Hopkins said.
Coming out of the Bel Air station, he continued, takes "a good seven to 10 minutes, depending on where we're going in that area to get to emergency calls."
The company receives anywhere between 2,500 and 2,700 fire calls every year, Hopkins said, and close to 6,500 EMS calls.
Having the substation "strategically located" in the Bel Air South community will bring protection much closer and create a better response time, he added.
Another potentially huge benefit for residents is the possibility of lower insurance rates.
Hopkins explained that homeowners who live within 5 miles of a fire station typically have lower insurance rates. He encourages people who live close to the Patterson Mill substation to call their insurance companies and see if their rates can be reduced.
The station also "blends in better with the community," the fire chief said, and the nearby aesthetic of Patterson Mill Middle and High schools was in mind when choosing colors and designs. The site where the station is located, whose ownership is being transferred from the county to the fire company, was part of the same tract on which the school was built.
"That building is for the community," Anthony Coliano, president of the Bel Air Fire Company, said. He called it the company's legacy to Bel Air South citizens.
He insisted the distance from the main station isn't an issue when it comes to getting fire and EMS equipment to the community, but the amount of traffic and stop lights.
"We like to be on the scene under six minutes," Coliano said. "That's almost impossible coming out of Bel Air. We need to be quicker."
The station will have one engine and one medic unit for the time being.
With Patterson Mill nearly done, BAVFC isn't looking for a break.
"Once [Patterson Mill] is done," Hopkins said, "we'll look at putting up another substation in another jurisdiction."
Hopkins, Coliano and crew already have a potential Route 22 substation project in mind, somewhere around the Campus Hills area.
With the heavy development along the Route 22 corridor, and more likely to come, Hopkins feels that would be the most logical place to have another station.
Hopkins hopes the public will come out for the dedication ceremony and open house Nov. 10 to see the community's new addition and, hopefully, be inspired to help out in any way they can.
"There's something in the fire service for everybody," he said.