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Fire Station #11 Near Charleston 9 Memorial Coverage on ABC News 4

Mez Joseph

CHARLESTON SC (WCIV) by Bill Burr— "We call it the little big house because of our location. We actually run quite a few calls," explains Captain Donovan Richardson of the Charleston Fire Department. He works at Fire Station 11 on Savannah Highway near Markfield Drive where firefighters live and work in close quarters.

"The rowing machine will get pulled out and we'll slide the work bench out a little bit when those guys are doing their reps," says Richardson. He shows how a dormitory for sleeping is also used as a gym. It’s one of the challenges of using a building built more than 50 years ago.

"They've added a battalion chief medical locker which takes up a lot of space. That same space holds all of our gear whenever we're not here. So, we have two other shifts. And we've reached our capacity with the number of guys," Richardson said.

Fire officials say the station was built in 1961. Since then, service needs have increased. That’s why interim fire chief John Tippett says the fire department plans to build a state of the art fire station just blocks away from Station 11, and next to the Charleston 9 memorial. It'll feature classic architecture, including nine windows symbolizing the firemen who died at the Sofa Super Store. "That property being next to the memorial site I think will add another depth of the improvements in the area, the recovery of the department since the fire, and where we're going as an organization," Tippett said.

It’ll be an upgrade in facilities and technology for members of Station 11’s Westside Battalion. The current fire station has 4,000 square feet of space. The new building will have about 14,000 square feet to accommodate up to two companies of firefighters, a command training center, and storage space for frontline and spare apparatus.

A price tag for the new station hasn't been determined. The city's design and review board approved the plans Monday night. Other boards will need to approve them, too. Interim Chief Tippett says the goal is open the new fire station by the end of 2018.