Bandys builds for the future

Bandys Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jason Drum wants people to pass by every Bandys station in Catawba County and say, "That's a Bandy's Fire Department."

That dream will soon become a reality with the expansion, renovation and construction of two Bandys fire stations, unifying the department's structure and design and helping the department prepare for the future.

Bandys recently completed construction on two garage bays at its Station 1 on Buffalo Shoals Road. The construction, however, is only partially complete. Once finished, Station 1 will be a 13,000-square-foot building with three bays and space for offices and dormitories for volunteers.

Construction on Station 1 started in May as part of a two-step project, Drum said. The first step was to build the now complete two-bay garage to store the station's engines and other equipment during the second phase of construction. The next step was to demolish the existing station and build the additional facility space.

The former station on Buffalo Shoals Road was built in the 1960s, making the building demolition bittersweet for some firefighters.

"It was hard for some of the members," Drum said. "They've been here since the beginning."

The additional space will help the department accommodate its additional volunteers and increasing call volume.

"We've probably doubled our number of volunteers in the last two years," Drum said.

Currently, the department has about 70 members.

The department, in addition to fire service, also provides some emergency response capabilities in the event of other emergencies.

The new garage bays on Buffalo Shoals Road are tall and sleek with dark glass doors that open to allow vehicles in and out of storage. At the top of new facility is the Bandys Fire Department seal.

Construction on Station 1 continues as Bandys Fire Department prepares to officially break ground on the future location of Station 3 on N.C. 16.

Station 3 will have the same architectural design and outward appearance as Station 1, except the N.C. 16 station will be about half the size.

Drum said construction on Station 3 is expected to take about 10 months, and he expects construction crews to start the project within coming weeks.

Both stations 1 and 3 will have a live-in program at night for volunteers to sleep at the department while on duty. Each station will have about two firefighters on duty during the day.

Bandys Fire Department has a coverage area in Catawba County of 52 square miles. The addition of the N.C. 16 fire station will lower insurance rates for residents near the station because the availability of a closer department means a shorter response time in the event of an emergency, Drum said.

Drum also said the department isn't asking for a tax increase for its fire service.

"We plan on keeping things the way they are," he said.