1,280 days later …

1,280 days later …

The 1,280 days city of Orange firefighters spent moving from pillar to post without a fire station to call their own felt like years at times, but Orange Fire Chief David Frenzel said the wait was worth the heartache as he looked upon the city’s newest fire station with awe and appreciation. Tears welled in the veteran firefighter’s eyes as he stood in front of a crowd of about 100 guests and friends Friday, March 16, and officially opened Central Fire Station No. 1 for business.

“Some might say this is a dream come true; but my dreams are never this grandiose,” Frenzel said of the state-of-the-art new firehouse. “This is like heaven for me.”When Hurricane Ike bombarded Orange in September 2008, the city’s main fire station took on 30 inches of water, destroying the building. Although Frenzel and crew tried desperately to save their workstation, engineers declared the building irreparable and the firefighters were forced to find alternate shelter. The crew was housed in the library for a time, then moved on to a small trailer where they remained until the unveiling of the new Central Fire Station.

And the new station, which cost nearly $5 million to construct, offers an array of extras Frenzel said he is still flabbergasted by today. For starters, the new building is three times its former size and comes equipped with technology the Orange Fire Department didn’t have before.

“This is quite a homecoming,” he said of the two-story firehouse, which comes complete with a kitchen, comfortable sleeping areas, lounge areas, and of course a new shiny firefighter’s pole. Other features of the new fire station include seven apparatus bays, more than 20,000 feet of living space and administrative quarters. “This is a wonderful day for me, for my firefighters, and for the city of Orange,” Frenzel said.

One of the assets Frenzel is most proud of at the fire station has to be the fact that the building is 100 percent bought and paid for – without any money from Orange taxpayers. Though grants and assistance from the Bush-Clinton Recovery Fund, the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, Temple Inland and the federal government, Central Fire Station’s $4.8 million price tag was paid before the ribbon cutting ceremony this past week.

“I love coming to work every day,” Frenzel told the crowd who gathered to celebrate the building’s opening. “This is a great place to work, and I don’t plan on leaving any time soon.”

Orange City Manager Shawn Oubre said he, for one, hopes Chief Frenzel stays put.

“He and I are both ‘old school.’ We believe in leaving something better than the way we found it, and I think that’s exactly what we’ve done here,” Oubre said. “Frenzel is an asset to this community, and I’m proud to have him on our staff.”

Attending the fire station dedication alongside Oubre and Frenzel were longtime Orange Mayor Brown Claybar, representatives from the Stark Foundation, the Bush-Clinton Recovery Fund and the architect responsible for the design, and assorted dignitaries from Orange and Jefferson counties.

“This culminated from a lot of hard work from a lot of people,” Oubre said. “And it’s quite a successful product.”Jennifer Johnson can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 231, or by e-mail at jennifer [at] theexaminer [dot] com.