Martinez Fire Department Capt. Anthony Lovett holds his daughters Molly, 3, and Erin, 1, as he shows them the fire trucks at the new fire department headquarters on Desoto Drive.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
For the first time in more than 40 years, Martinez Fire Department dedicated a new headquarters station.
"How sweet it is that the Martinez Fire Department has come so far so fast," said Mort Lindner, the department's board of trustees president.
The $1.3 million headquarters building, on Desoto Drive off Old Evans Road, was completed in May and dedicated Wednesday.
As the department christened its $1.3 million headquarters building, Lindner was thankful for such overwhelming support from county officials, residents and the 130 dedicated paid and volunteer firemen and staff.
"We have indeed come a long way in a relatively short period of time" Lindner said. "We look forward to whatever challenges the future may bring."
Facing those challenges in the new headquarters building that was completed in May on Desoto Drive meant having to say goodbye to the original headquarters on Washington Road.
"Before we closed out the station, we kind of had, not a funeral, but a goodbye party," said James Champion, assistant chief and board treasurer who worked many years in the original building built by the department's founding volunteers. "We sat around for several hours reminiscing.
"When they started demolition, we had to go have a brick or something from the station because it has been such a part of our lives. But we are very excited to be in this new station. None of this would have been possible without Hartwell Morris."
Retired Richmond County Fire Chief Butch Murdock, left, presents Martinez Fire Department Chief Doug Cooper with a painting inspired by the heroic acts during the September 11, 2001, attacks. The presentation was made at Wednesdays dedication ceremony for the Martinez department's new headquarters.
Photo by Valerie Rowell
Hartwell Morris Sr. was the department's founding chief, and the original station was dedicated in his name on Aug. 27, 1961. Morris saw the need for a fire department in the Martinez area and organized the first station on his property.
In early 1961, Morris organized both department and community volunteers to construct the former headquarters building. Volunteers spent 5,100 hours on the building, which took only 90 days to complete, Champion said.
Retired Chief Burl Keen, who wore his uniform for the first time since his retirement in 1985, credited volunteers and Morris with the department's success during the dedication ceremony.
"We started with volunteers and without volunteers we would not have this department," Keen said.
Many who gathered at the new building for the ceremony - including several dignitaries, retired Richmond County Chief Butch Murdock and current Augusta Fire Department Chief Al Gillespie - said Morris had the biggest impact on the department.
"For that reason, we had decided to dedicate the old station to him," Champion said. "We felt like the dedication should carry over to this new station because if not for him, this department as we know it would not be the same."
Champion and Chief Doug Cooper unveiled a plaque dedicating the new headquarters to Morris that will grace the outside of the building.
The department now has six stations around the Martinez-Evans area and more than 10 trucks including a new 95-foot aerial truck. More than 125 paid and volunteer firemen serve the department.
"I am sure Hartwell is smiling down today and Chief Gene Davis, to see this new building and see where Martinez has come and where it's going," Murdock said. "And it's not over yet."
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