Officials from Cherokee County and the City of Canton, along with a number of area residents, gathered at the brand new Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services Station No. 9 recently to celebrate the station’s grand opening.
“We’re tickled to death to be here today,” Cherokee County Fire Chief Tim Prather said. “It took a long time to get here.”
A joint effort between the city and county, the $4.3 million fire station sits north of downtown Canton on Reinhardt College Parkway, just across the road from the old Fire Station No. 9, which started life in the 1970s as the fire station for the North Canton Volunteer Fire Department. Ground was broken on the new facility in June 2019.
“We knew this project would take vision and dedication,” Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Robinson said. “Fire Station No. 9 is one of the busiest stations in the county. This new station comes in at 11,631 square feet and even with this unique, modern design, it only required us to disturb about 5 acres of land.”
Cherokee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Harry Johnston said, “What a great day for the greatest county in Georgia. We’ve come a long way.”
“We’re so happy to have you here. This exemplifies what can happen when the city and the county come together. We’re very proud of this. Consolidation was one of the best decisions we made,” Canton Mayor Bill Grant added.
The new Station No. 9 was dedicated to Charlie Ferguson, who played a key role in establishing the North Canton Volunteer Fire Department and served with the unit for many years. A plaque commemorating Ferguson’s service to the volunteer agency was unveiled beside the new station’s front door by members of his family, while Ferguson’s daughter, Frankie Ferguson Shepherd, gave a few remarks during the ceremony.
“I want to thank Chief Prather for honoring my father,” she said. “Charlie loved the fire station. He would leave home at 7 in the morning and sometimes I would have to call him at midnight and tell him to come home.”
Not only did Ferguson work with other members of the community to make the North Canton Volunteer Fire Department, the first African-American volunteer fire department in Georgia, become a reality and serve the North Canton area with pride, but Shepherd said he was instrumental in paying many of the department’s bills. She added he would be ecstatic to see the new fire station and that it was being dedicated in his memory.
In addition to recognizing Ferguson, those in attendance gave a standing ovation to event attendee James Morris, who served as a firefighter with the North Canton Volunteer Fire Department for many years and was its last chief.
Robinson described some of the features that helps set the new station apart while keeping the firefighters stationed there safe and ready to effectively assist residents of the area in emergency situations. For example, the doors to the vehicle bays do not roll up like traditional doors, but instead part in the middle and go to the side, a method Robinson said would make it easier for trucks pulling out in a hurry not to have to worry about the top of the vehicle catching on the door before it had fully opened. In addition, both of the main hallways in the living quarters side of the building are straight hallways, which will save time as the firefighters will not have to go around corners to get to the vehicles needed in that specific situation. The vehicle bay is equipped with negative pressure ventilation that can easily and quickly remove dangerous gasses and carcinogens from the building, while a room designed specifically for turnout gear is also able to keep such harmful elements from getting into the rest of the station.
One key improvement the new station building has over the old facility is the amount of living space available for the firefighters stationed there. As the old Station No. 9 was built as a volunteer station and not designed to be lived in, the firefighters there were in fairly cramped quarters. However, at the new station, there are 12 individual bunk rooms, one for each firefighter per shift and provide a decent amount of space to live in while on duty at the station. With the greater amount of space available, the new station includes office space for the watch officer and commanding officer, an exercise room, locker rooms with private restroom and shower space and a kitchen and dining area large enough for an entire shift to eat family-style meals together.
“In closing, I will tell you the best feature of this facility is the highly motivated, well trained, physically and mentally fit firefighters that are assigned here to serve you in a more effective and efficient manner,” Robinson said.
Just before the ceremony concluded, Prather was joined by Morris, Johnston, Grant, Canton City Councilwomen Sandy McGrew and JoEllen Wilson, county commissioners Ray Gunnin and Corey Ragsdale, former board of commissioners chair Buzz Ahrens, County Manager Jerry Cooper, Sheriff Frank Reynolds and other local officials outdoors in front of the station’s vehicle bay for the uncoupling ceremony. Robinson explained that, similar to a ribbon-cutting at a new business, two coupled fire hoses are laid out in front of the vehicle bay doors, which are then held up and uncoupled from each other to signal the station’s official opening.
Following the uncoupling, those in attendance were allowed to take a tour of the new station and enjoy some refreshments.