Against the backdrop of a clear blue sky and heaps of orange dirt, the lone silver hydrant near the corner of Mount Vernon and Shirley roads catches the eye.
That hydrant will soon be paired with a fire station, giving North Hall homeowners the fire protection they’ve been lacking for more than a year.
“If you build buildings in the county, you have to install a fire hydrant — so this is actually where it will be. The station will be a little back there,” Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell said, pointing to the north end of the dirt piles, which builders have already been moving for a few weeks.
Contractors, fire officials and each of the men on the Hall County Board of Commissioners held a shovel for the ceremonial groundbreaking of Station 16 on Wednesday.
District 3 Commissioner Scott Gibbs is especially enthusiastic about the station, which he began working on as frustrated constituents approached him with concerns about rising home insurance premiums.
“When I found out about a year and a half ago, we identified the gap and started moving toward identifying properties for the station,” Gibbs said.
It proved to be tricky, with little leeway for the station location.“If we moved it further north, we’d have a gap in the other direction,” he said.
The “gap” in fire coverage refers to properties that are more than 5 road miles from a station. Homes within that mark are guaranteed a better fire safety rating from the Insurance Services Office — at minimum a four — and those beyond often get slapped with a nine or 10, resulting in higher insurance rates.
Nearby resident Reneigh Satterfield, whose son is a firefighter in Flowery Branch, came out for the ceremony, thankful to see progress toward insurance relief.
“My insurance on my home went from $3,000 to over $10,000, whenever they closed that ... fire station,” she said.
Station 2 was relocated to Clermont about three years ago, and plans to close the fire gap stalled with the economy.
The county has already hired 30 new firefighters to staff the station and fill vacancies. Their training began on Monday, Kimbrell said.
The county also broke ground this past month on a relocated Station 3, also in North Hall, at the intersection of Will Wallace Road and Ledan Extension. The station relocation from a 1970s era building on Short Road also should provide insurance rate relief for homeowners.
Both stations are set to be completed in April.