After a few years of delays, the $1.84 million two-story Conch Key fire station renovation should be completed by the end of February, if things continue to go as planned.
For years, Monroe County Fire Rescue crews cooked their meals in the truck bay that wasn't big enough for all their engines and the firefighters were living in trailers, said Chief Jim Callahan.
"Things are going very well," Callahan said. "We just put the roof in last week and the windows are supposed to be coming in early January."
Some of the first career firefighters started in the Conch Key station back in the 1980s. The station covers a geographic area that stretches from Layton into Marathon where the county crews have a mutual aid agreement with Marathon firefighters, Callahan said.
"Its location is vital because of its proximity to the highway and the high-dollar homes and commercial properties nearby," Callahan said. "The station is absolutely needed there not only for fire protection, but also because our firefighters are also paramedics and provide that service as well."
Pedro Falcon Electrical and General Contractors of Big Pine Key -- the same company renovating the Marathon courthouse -- is handling the Conch Key fire station renovation, said Monroe County Project Management Director Jerry Barnett.
The Conch Key fire station is smaller than other stations, markedly the Big Pine Key station and the newly begun Stock Island fire station, Barnett said.
In October, county officials broke ground on the new $3.5 million Stock Island Fire Station 8 on the four lots surrounding the current station at the corner of MacDonald and Maloney avenues. The Big Pine Key station cost about $3.2 million and was completed in 2009.
The new Conch Key station will feature a much needed new kitchen, space for four fire engines, an office, improved sleeping quarters and an elevated generator with enough fuel to keep the station powered for a week, Callahan said.
Meanwhile, talks of perhaps a Summerland Key fire station or renovations of the station on Sugarloaf Key remain just that -- talks, Barnett said.
"Those are still vague conversations and nothing has been written in stone," Barnett said.