Buffalo has closed the last firehouse and opened its newest facility as part of an ongoing restructuring that will result in a downsized fire force.
Mayor Byron W. Brown cut the ceremonial ribbon Monday on a new $2.3 million facility at Fillmore and Buell avenues. The station is home to Engine 33, which was relocated from an aging firehouse at Kehr Street and Winslow Avenue.
Earlier this month, the city also closed a firehouse at Leroy Avenue and Halbert Street, phasing out one engine. Ladder 7 was moved to an expanded facility at Main Street and Mercer Avenue.
Six firehouses have been closed as part of the restructuring. Three new facilities have been built or expanded at more strategic locations. Three additional firehouses are planned: at Bailey Avenue and Doat Street, Bailey and Hewitt avenues and a yet-to-be-finalized site in South Buffalo.
Firefighters at Engine 33 were a few minutes late for Monday's ribbon-cutting, but they had a good reason. Crews returned to the station smelling of smoke, having spent part of the day battling a house fire on East Utica Street.
Some firefighters assigned to the Delavan Fillmore Firehouse -- which is actually two blocks south of Delavan Avenue -- say the 10,400-square-foot facility is an improvement over their former digs.
"This has been a long time coming," said Kenny Williams, a 19-year departmental veteran who is also a fire chaplain. "The old house had roof problems and a floor that was badly deteriorated."
The new station also houses the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' mobile investigative unit. The firehouse has two truck bays, but it can be expanded to include a third bay.
A citizen member of a task force that monitored various phases of the fire restructuring said he's pleased with the progress. Casimier T. Czamara said the changes have followed recommendations from a consultant that studied city fire services.
"Response times will not be affected by the relocations," Czamara said.
The city has also been purchasing millions of dollars in new equipment, including new engines that are capable of using foam to help fight fires.
As recently as two years ago, Buffalo had about 820 firefighters. The city plans to reduce its current 731-person force to about 690.
The new firehouse was dedicated in memory of firefighter Michael L. Sequin, who died in 1997 after being trapped in the attic of a blazing home on Kehr Street.