JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As Putnam County's Emergency Operations Center sends firefighters to the panhandle to help with relief efforts following Hurricane Michael, they were caught by surprise this week when a helping hand was extended their way at one of their own fire houses where many of their volunteer firefighters are stationed.
Joseph Scileppe is the general manager of Fla Trucking and Paving in East Palatka. He says his crew was tipped off that the drive for the fire station was barely usable, filled with gaping holes and washed over with rain water and debris.
Without hesitation, the repaving company decided to take on the $50,000 free of charge. They worked all day Thursday and Friday.
"Oh, it was very, very bad, it was bad enough that it actually messed up one of their vehicles on the way out one day," said Scileppi.
"We just decided to give back and help our first responders," he said.
The first fire station in Putnam County was built by community volunteers in the 1950s. With 18 stations in all -- most, if not all -- are starting to show their age after nearly 70 years of service.
First Coast News showed you one of their fire stations in Interlachen last month when firefighters were relocated due to mold in the building. It's one of many examples of the improvements they're working on with the County Commissioners and lawmakers.
Until now, the county hasn’t had the finances to make major changes, but more money was just approved to start new projects.
Fire Chief Quin Romay says their county has historically been poor and so resources are hard to come by, but the community does a great job of coming together regardless.
"It doesn’t get us down, we are certainly always positive and wanting to make sure we are moving in the right direction," said Romay.
Chief Romay says three new sites are under construction now, including a new one off Highway 207 and Cabbage Patch Road, which will eventually replace the volunteer station down the road that just received that free new driveway for their emergency vehicles.
The new station will house eight firefighters at a time, including volunteers and full-time firefighters.
"Our congressional leaders came together and were part of the solution and this is the result," said Romay.
He calls the new site a critical location. It’s expected to improve their response times drastically as it will be more centrally located.
It's expected to be fully functional by next June and cost a little over one million dollars.
There are two more sites under construction to house the EMS vehicles stationed at mobile trailers in the interim. Those site will be ready in the coming weeks in and months.
"As this area continues to grow, we will be in the right place to help protect and the serve the citizens," said Romay.