By Rachel Brown Hackney, SarasotaNewsLeader.com
Shortly after 8:30 a.m. on July 9, Sarasota County Fire Chief Michael Regnier stood behind a podium on the ground floor of the new Fire Station 13.
“My heart is beating out of my chest right now,” he said as he looked out over an audience of firefighters, county commissioners and staff, special guests and news media members.
Usually, he said, events such as the one that morning do not make him nervous. “But for this one, I don’t know why …”
The occasion was the official opening of the two-story facility that replaces the original Fire Station 13, which dated to 1974.
Finally, Regnier told the audience members, “Everybody come together and say, ‘Wow!’ One, two, three — Wow!”
Voices rang out in unison with his.
The 10,500-square-foot station cost about $5.4 million, according to a county staff document.
Regnier pointed out that after the original facility was razed, “All the dirt was brought in” for elevation purposes, so construction could begin. Not being a builder, Regnier continued, “I stood … at the top of the mound of dirt that was here,” he said, and looked out at Beach Road and thought, “I don’t know how this is going to work.”
As a result of his climb atop that mound, Regnier said, people began referring to the site as “Mount Regnier.”
Rich Collins, director of the county’s Emergency Services Department, pointed out during his remarks that morning, “It was just a year ago, in June 2020, that the groundbreaking took place.
The two-story design has been used with other stations in the county, Collins noted. The structure is hurricane-hardened, he added, and county staff expects it to win certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for its sustainability features.
(A county document says the structure has been designed to withstand Category 4 hurricane winds.)
During his remarks, Regnier also thanked the Siesta Key Fire Rescue Advisory Council (SKFRAC) for its many years of support for Fire Station 13. The council in early 2018 donated a Polaris Beach Rescue vehicle and a Stryker Power Loading System to Station 13, which can be used for emergency operations on the beach, Regnier noted.
Additionally, the council contributed $16,000 for weight training equipment for the new station.
After all the remarks, Collins explained that, with fire station openings, ribbon cuttings are not the order of the day. Instead, he told the audience, “We do a hose uncoupling. That tradition goes back a long time, he said, mentioning the days when teams of horses pulled fire wagons.
Collins invited everyone to join him outside the station. Then, with commissioners Alan Maio, Christian Ziegler and Ron Cutsinger standing alongside, two firefighters — Patricia Wacha and Christopher Tedrick — officially uncoupled the hose.