Firefighters find temporary home in a retirement community | Community News | #seniorliving | #elderly | #seniors
Recently, some Mount Pleasant firefighters became rather close neighbors with a community of senior citizens. A renovation of Station 5 on Dunes West Boulevard meant on-duty firefighters had to relocate and Somerby Senior Living answered the call.
When Matt Tidwell, the public information officer for Station 5, reached out to Christie Gauldin, the director of sales and marketing at Somerby, he told her he had a strange request she probably hadn’t heard before. After Tidwell told her the renovations would take about seven weeks and the firefighters needed to set up a temporary station, Gauldin said she would see what she could do.
She called back only a few minutes later and said the firefighters could stay in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom villa at the entrance of the community.
“They’re constantly here to respond to our residents’ emergencies, so it was just nice to be able to do something kind of in return,” Gauldin said.
Tidwell jumped at the opportunity and about two weeks later the firefighters moved in. The location was ideal as Somerby is less than two miles away from the fire station.
Five firefighters stayed in the villa at a time, with 15 total firefighters on rotating shifts. They were able to set up computers, mobile hotspots, radios and other necessary equipment. They stored their uniforms and gear in the connecting garage and the firetruck took over several spots of the parking lot.
Tidwell said one important request from the firefighters was to bring the industrial-sized coffee pot from the station to Somerby.
They also brought couches from the station to the living room and even added a Mount Pleasant Fire Department doormat. The villa became known as Station 5½.
The firefighters responded to calls from the villa just like they would at the station. Tidwell said the response times hadn’t changed.
“Most of the firefighters had come in here and looked at it as an opportunity to just do something different and be part of something different that no one else can say they’ve done,” said Tidwell.
Shane Himes, a fire engineer with the Mount Pleasant Fire Department for the past 10 years, said the villa provided a neighborhood environment compared with staying in a temporary trailer.
Himes said Somerby residents would often walk or drive by while the firefighters sat on the patio outside. “A few people here and there on their walks, they’ll stop by and say hey,” Himes said.
Tidwell said this opportunity allowed the firefighters to create connections with Mount Pleasant residents outside of responding to emergencies.
“A lot of our firefighters are young and it’s cool to see that generational gap communicate with each other aside from 911 calls,” said Tidwell.
Gualdin added that when there was a need for assistance from the fire department, it was convenient to have them right there in the neighborhood.
Gualdin said that COVID-19 was not a concern while the firefighters were around. She said both the fire department and Somerby have strict COVID-19 protocols and there were no active COVID-19 cases within the community during the firefighters’ stay. Since the firefighters had their own villa, the direct interaction with other residents was limited.
This was the first renovation of Station 5 since it was built in 1993. The additions included new floors throughout the building, a complete kitchen renovation, fresh paint with red accents and updated storage.