Nearly 70 years after the Midlothian Volunteer Fire Department built the original Fire Station 5 across Route 60 from what is now Midlothian Middle School, Chesterfield Fire and EMS held a public dedication ceremony Monday morning for its replacement.
The three-bay, 15,000-square-foot station, which is located at the intersection of Midlothian Turnpike and Charter Colony Parkway, opened Sept. 12. Its minimum daily staffing of eight on-duty firefighters provides fire protection and emergency medical services to more than 29,000 residents within an area covering 22.8 square miles.
The new Station 5’s fire engine already has responded to nearly 300 incidents. Its ladder truck has responded to more than 200 incidents, including several significant fires. Its ambulance has responded to nearly 800 emergency calls in just three months of service, relieving stress on units from adjacent stations that previously covered the Midlothian area.
“While this is a great new facility, a couple things have not changed and will never change: the men and women who took the oath of office and work here every day,” said Chesterfield County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey. “They’re responding just as hard, just as fast and just as professionally as they ever have, with care and attention to this community.”
Truck 205 is Chesterfield’s sixth staffed ladder truck and the first added to the countywide Fire and EMS response system since 1989. It addresses increased demand in Midlothian, the county’s most active area for commercial activity that also is seeing significant growth in multifamily housing and mixed-use developments.
“Citizens of Chesterfield expect and deserve high-quality public services and this station certainly meets that mark,” said Dr. Mark S. Miller, the Midlothian District’s representative on the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors. “We value the important work of our Fire and EMS department and what they provide to residents and businesses, and we want to make sure our fire safety professionals have the facilities, equipment and training necessary to keep our citizens safe.”
Chesterfield was a much different place in 1955 when the Midlothian Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD) began construction of the former Station 5, which still stands today as “an iconic symbol to this community,” said Chesterfield Fire and EMS Chief Loy Senter.
It is now owned and operated by the Forest View Volunteer Rescue Squad.
Several expansion projects were completed over the years, focused on a volunteer fire department’s role in the community, but the building was never intended to support a seven day-a-week, 24-hour operation. It also lacked the space to house a larger, modern ladder truck.
Chesterfield Fire & EMS added career firefighters to the station in 1977 and has staffed an engine company out of the facility ever since.
The earliest references to the need for a new, modern Fire and EMS station in this area date back to the 1989 Midlothian Special Area Plan, a document that also noted an alternate, larger site would be needed to accommodate such a facility.
The need for a new station to accommodate additional staff and services was confirmed some 20 years later, when a community risk assessment was performed by Chesterfield Fire and EMS.
This need was reaffirmed in the early-morning hours of Dec. 15, 2010, when a multi-alarm fire struck the Old Buckingham Station Apartments, resulting in the displacement of many occupants.
“Because there was no ladder truck service in Midlothian at the time, ladder trucks needed to attack the fire from above had to travel long distances before arriving on scene,” Senter said, noting one ladder truck even responded from the Bensley fire station about 15 miles away.
By 2012, recommendations for a new Midlothian fire station were included in Chesterfield’s revised public facilities plan, a chapter of the countywide comprehensive plan.
In 2015, the county acquired land for the new station. Two years later, Chesterfield Fire and EMS began public engagement sessions to best align the facility with guidelines in an updated Midlothian Special Area Plan.
The Board of Supervisors approved funding for design of the new Midlothian Station 5 in the county’s fiscal year 2019 budget. Construction funding was appropriated by the board in fiscal year 2020.
Construction began in fall 2020. Staff for the new station were hired and trained, and apparatus and equipment were purchased, during fiscal year 2022.
“Not only does this new fire station signify enhancement of fire and emergency services to this community, it also represents a significant shift in layout and design,” Senter said. “I encourage everyone to tour the station and see firsthand some of the features that will be prototypical aspects for all new fire stations constructed in Chesterfield County.”
Station 5 has state-of-the-art systems and equipment to ensure the health and safety of personnel working there around the clock. There also are individual sleeping quarters, rather than one large bunk room, meeting the needs of a diverse workforce and improving management of “responder fatigue” for a department that responds to more than 50,000 calls annually.
Chesterfield’s new prototype design for fire stations can be easily expanded to address future demand for additional personnel and apparatus. Its façade also can be adapted to complement the architectural character of the community it serves.
Chesterfield Fire and EMS will host an open house at the new Midlothian Station 5 this Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“To the residents of Midlothian and surrounding communities: This is your fire station,” Senter added. “Please note that the firefighters assigned to this station stand ready to respond at a moment’s notice in your time of need and are committed to being an integral part of this community.”