The days of six-minute waits for emergency service at the east end of Cross Creek Boulevard and along Morris Bridge Road are about to become worries of the past.
And residents, business owners and city officials couldn't be happier.
Workers are adding final touches to Tampa Fire Rescue Station No. 22 at 10871 Cross Creek Blvd.
Although no opening date has been released, city officials confirm the long-anticipated firehouse is set to open this month.
When it does, Station 22 will become the third city fire rescue operation to service the sprawling suburbs in the northernmost part of the city.
Opening day "is going to be a big deal," Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Capt. Lonnie Benniefield said.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Fire Rescue Chief Tom Forward are planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony and other activities to celebrate the debut of the 8,600-square-foot complex.
The new firehouse marks a worthwhile city investment to improve fire and rescue services for subdivisions and businesses on or near Cross Creek Boulevard and parts of unincorporated Hillsborough County on Morris Bridge Road, Benniefield said.
The area is sprinkled with apartment complexes and the sprawling Arbor Greene, Cory Lake Isles, Heritage Isles, K-Bar Ranch and Misty Creek subdivisions. There also are strip shopping plazas, churches, and Heritage Elementary and Benito Middle schools nearby.
The fire station, which cost about $1.6 million to build, has been on the fire department's wish list for more than a decade.
When the city about 10 years ago opened Fire Rescue Station No. 21 – it's the nearest firehouse on the west end of Cross Creek Boulevard near Bruce B. Downs Boulevard – plans already were in the works to build Fire Station No. 22.
The new firehouse will help reduce response times in an area now served by Fire Station No. 21, which is almost four miles away. Fire engines at Tampa Fire Station No. 20 on Bruce B. Downs in Tampa Palms provide backup when needed.
The new station was built on an undeveloped parcel spanning nearly 8 acres about a quarter-mile west of Morris Bridge Road. The city bought the land in 2007 for $750,000.
The contract called for building a fire station and parking lot on two acres; the remainder of the land will be used for conservation.
The building has many environmentally friendly design elements. It will have high-efficiency lighting and controls, solar-powered exterior lighting and water heating, an energy-efficient heating and cooling system, and bins for recycled materials.
Grounds surrounding the firehouse are landscaped with boulders and native plants.
Federal stimulus money awarded in 2009 covered the project's entire cost.
The Station No. 22 project was one of 96 awarded a stimulus grant from among about 6,000 applications submitted nationwide, city fire rescue officials said.
In Florida, six projects were selected. Station No. 22 is the only one from the Tampa area.
Five-member teams made up of a captain, driver and three firefighters will staff the station around the clock, Benniefield said. The crew will be trained to provide fire rescue and paramedic services.
The salaries of the 15 to 18 firefighters needed to staff the new station will be paid with a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The city's ability to provide needed improvements in the growing eastern edge of New Tampa and unincorporated northern Hillsborough County is a long time in coming, Benniefield said.
"It makes our level of manpower much higher," he said.