Haskell Fire Department opens third fire station
Carol Rolf/Contributing WriterPublished February 28, 2016 at 12:00 a.m.
The Haskell Fire Department was established as a volunteer fire department in 1978 with just one truck — a 1949 Ford pumper.
Today the department has several trucks, including a 2013 fire engine that was purchased new that year, and recently opened a third fire station.
The new fire station is at 411 Arkansas 229, which is on the north end of town.
“Volume is up in this part of town,” Haskell Fire Chief Brian Cotten said. “We needed a station on this side of town, especially with the development of the Silver Springs subdivision.” Cotten said the department has 18 members and nine emergency medical technicians. The department now operates with part-time, paid employees.
He said that because the department now has paid employees, “we dropped the word ‘volunteer’ from our name, and we are now called the Haskell Fire Department.
“We have two people on duty from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week and two who are on call from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.,” he said.
“The guys who work during the day have other jobs and work here on their days off,” he said, adding that all the firefighters live in the Haskell Fire District. “We have firemen from here, as well as those who work in fire departments in Bryant, Benton, Little Rock and North Little Rock.”
Cotten, too, has another daytime job — he is executive director of design and construction at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. He is a graduate of Harmony Grove High School in Haskell and received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Arkansas. Cotten is a registered professional engineer and is certified as a health care facility manager by the American Society of Healthcare Engineering.
He is treasurer of the Arkansas Fire Protection Licensing Board.
The Haskell Fire Department operates on funds raised from a city sales tax, as well as funds from federal and state grants.
“A 1-cent city sales tax, passed in November 2008, goes directly to the Fire Department,” Cotten said. “That’s really been a big help. It’s given us a steady income to help pay the staff and build the new station.
“The people in the community supporting that city sales tax was a huge plus for us. The community has always supported our fire department.”
The main fire station, Central Station, is in the middle of town at 121 Cardinal Lane behind the Haskell City Hall. In 2005, the city received $95,000 in general-improvement funds from the Arkansas Legislature to remodel the main station.
The second station, referred to as Station 3, is on Grand Avenue, which is on the other side of the railroad tracks on the east end of town. Cotten said this assures uninterrupted fire protection when there are trains on the tracks.
Construction on this second fire station was started in 2005 and completed in 2006. The city received a $50,000 block grant from the Arkansas Development of Rural Services to build the second station.
The third station, referred to as Station 2, is the newest facility.
Cotten said the city took bids on the new fire station with the lowest bid of $476,000 coming from eco Construction of Little Rock, which completed the project in November 2015.
Construction on the new fire station started in August 2015, and the department moved into the new facility on Nov. 30. It is a 2,500-square-foot metal building with a brick facade. Heritage Engineering Co. of Benton served as the engineering firm for the project.
Cotten said the city leased 1 acre for the new fire station from the Arkansas Health Center, formerly the Benton Services Center, which is a psychiatric nursing home operated by the Arkansas Department of Human Services.
“We have a 99-year lease and pay $1 a year,” Cotten said with a smile.
When the department built the new fire station, it also installed an extractor or commercial washing machine for laundering the firefighters’ turnout gear (personal protective equipment).
“We also did all LED lighting at the new station,” Cotten said. “That made us eligible for a rebate program through Entergy Arkansas and CLEAResult. So we were able to get a large portion of the cost and installation of lights through that rebate program.”
In addition to funding derived from the 1-cent city sales tax, the Haskell Fire Department has received state and federal grants for the past several years.
“Between 2000 and 2010, we’ve received various grants for $514,000,” Cotten said, adding that most of those funds have been used to purchase trucks and equipment.
The Haskell Fire Department serves the entire city, which has a population of approximately 4,000, and about 200 homes outside the city limits. For those living in the city limits, fire protection is provided as no cost. For those living outside the city limits, there is a voluntary annual fee.
Cotten said the Haskell Fire Department made a total of 415 runs in 2015; 81 were fire-related runs, and 334 were rescue-related runs.
“We run mutual aid with Turtle Creek, Lonsdale and Traskwood volunteer fire departments,” Cotten said. “We all work closely together.”
The Haskell Fire Department has an ISO rating of Class 5.
“That’s good for a city our size,” Cotten said. “It’s hard to get anything less than a 5, considering water supply and manpower.”
He said the city has its own water system and purchases the water from the Southwest Water Users Association in Benton.
Cotten, who lives in Haskell, has been the fire chief since 2000. He joined the volunteer fire department right after it was formed in 1979.
“I was a sophomore in high school when the fire department was established,” he said. “I was a fire marshal at Harmony Grove High School.”
Other officers at the Haskell Fire Department are assistant chief Alan Cabe and captains Ronnie Ballard and Brad Cotten, who is Brian Cotten’s brother.