The Port Arthur News
SABINE PASS —
There was little doubt in Kristi Heid’s mind that her small coastal community would bounce back after being nearly obliterated by Hurricane Rita in 2005.
“I didn’t doubt we’d come back, and come back with a vengeance,” said Heid, Sabine Pass Independent School District and lifelong Sabine Pass resident.
And bounce back they did. The popular ABC television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” came to the town’s aid and built a new fire station in March 2006.
However, Sabine Pass was only able to enjoy its new facility for two short years before Hurricane Ike came ashore in 2008 and undid all of the show’s work by destroying Fire Station No. 4.
Ike shook Heid’s faith, she admitted.
“We thought we’d had our 100-year storm, and then Ike just knocked us back,” she said. “I was scared we wouldn’t come back from it.”
Heid had her confidence restored on Wednesday, when the new state-of-the-art Fire Station No. 4, 5030 S. Gulfway Drive, Sabine Pass, was unveiled at its grand opening. The gray-and-red building boasts a kitchen, dorm and office space, gym and outdoor patio, as well as a sub-police station and triage for emergencies. Unlike its predecessor, it is elevated 7 feet above flood level.
“The old building was not designed as a fire station,” said Port Arthur Fire Chief Larry Richard. “After it was remodeled, it was beautiful, but not very efficient.”
That problem is solved now. The process took 11 months and $1.8 million. Although 90 percent of the funding came from FEMA, the city of Port Arthur was responsible for more than its share of 10 percent due to several unforeseen projects. The driveways and sidewalks were not damaged, but still needed to be replaced because they did not align with the new building’s design. The city also had to take on the rebuilding of the outside apparatus bay, which was underinsured pre-Ike.
“It’s been a labor of love,” Richard said.
Now, however, Fire Station No. 4 can withstand winds a maximum of 150 mph.
“The only way it’ll move is if another barge hits it,” laughed Lynn Foster, of LDF Construction, Inc., the Spring-based company that contracted with BRW Architects of College Station to rebuild Fire Station No. 4.
The grand opening is music to the ears of the nine-member crew that will be stationed at the new building. Post-Ike, they moved into a trailer near the bus barn at Sabine Pass Independent School District for six months — or so they thought.
“Imagine three people who you would not usually choose to spend time with living together,” said Terry Shipley, a fire engineer with the Port Arthur Fire Department, who is part of the crew that will consist of a captain, an engineer and a firefighter on duty at all times.
The trailer functioned as the home base for Fire Station No. 4 for nearly five years. While Heid called it a “pleasure,” both parties agreed it was time to move on.
“It’ll be nice to have a little space,” Shipley said.
It’s also already doing wonders for the spirit of a tenacious little town struggling to rebuild after enduring two once-in-a-lifetime storms in three years.
“This right here is a statement when you pull into Sabine Pass,” Heid said. “We did come back. We didn’t quit.”