Warner helps usher in new era for Suffolk firefighters

Published 6:46 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A spirit of celebration filled the air as local officials joined U.S. Sen. Mark Warner Friday morning in breaking ground for the city’s new Fire Station 11.

Joining Warner to kick off the Suffolk Fire Department construction project that will increase response time to North Suffolk were Fire Chief Michael J. Barakey, Mayor Michael D. Duman, and other city officials Friday. 

Fire Station 11, located at 6482 Hampton Roads Pkwy., will be a 20,000 square foot “state-of-the-art” facility housing 45 firefighters, officers and paramedics and aims to provide coverage for the growing North Suffolk region, according to a department news release. The first responders will staff an engine, ladder and heavy rescue company alongside an advanced life support ambulance, an emergency medical services supervisor and a Virginia Department of Emergency Management Regional Hazmat office. 

Email newsletter signup

Barakey expressed his gratitude to Warner and his Senate colleagues for their support while marking the momentous occasion for the SFD.

“Today is about the community and the City of Suffolk’s commitment to providing the best fire and advanced life support emergency medical services to the citizens and visitors of North Suffolk,” Barakey said. “Through the 2021 SAFER grant from the Department of Homeland Security, the City of Suffolk and the Suffolk Fire [and] Rescue have been awarded $3.4 million for three years worth of salary for 18 of the 45 firefighters that will call this station home.”

Duman stressed the importance of the new fire station because of the additional sense of safety it will provide for the area’s citizens.

“It’s widely recognized that without a doubt, there can be no quality of life if people do not feel safe in their neighborhoods,” Duman said. “Our citizens depend on the safety professionals and their ability to respond to situations quickly and effectively. Without a sense of physical safety, both individually and more broadly as a community, we’re unable to focus on other factors that support our well-being.”

Warner thanked firefighters for their work, acknowledging the importance of supporting first responders with their mental health.

“As a Virginian and as an American, I thank you for what you do,” he said. “I don’t think you get near enough recognition. I don’t think you get near enough appreciation.” 

Following the ceremony, Warner said he hopes residents see that the city and federal government are “putting their money where their mouth is” to support firefighters.

“The federal grant that I helped secure gets 18 firefighters salaries. The fact that the city is building this new fire station, I think, is a tangible example,” Warner said. “My job going forward, though, is to make sure that we have support for mental health needs for all first responders, that we elevate those unsung heroes that are the 911 dispatch officers and allow them not to be treated as clerks but as first responder professionals, and that we need to do more to support our search and rescue teams.”

Fire Station 11 is expected to open in spring 2025.