ST. GEORGE — The location of the former Flood Street Chapel on 400 East was the site of a groundbreaking for the city’s new fire station.

St. George city officials, firefighters and others break ground for the new Fire Station 1 in St. George, Utah, Feb. 12, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Firefighters, city officials and others gathered at the corner of 400 East and 100 South Monday afternoon to mark the official start of the construction for Station 1, which is set to replace the original Station 1 located on 1000 East.

“This has been in the works for several years now,” St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said of efforts to find a larger and more central location for the city’s main fire station.

The original Station 1 at 51 S. 1000 East was built in 1986 and became the primary headquarters of the city’s Fire Department. However, as the city grew, so did the need to expand the Fire Department and its facilities, and Station 1 was no exception.

“We’ve definitely outgrown it,” Stoker said. “Right now, our conference room is our kitchen table over at Station 1, which is great until it’s noon and the crew needs to come and eat. Then we either share food or run the meeting somewhere else.”

The original Station 1 is 8,500 square feet in size while the new Station 1 will be a 27,000-square-foot, two-story structure. Sleeping quarters for firefighters will be located on the second floor, with administrative offices, training facilities and storage set on the first floor.

Shovels wait to turn dirt at the groundbreaking at Station 1 in St. George, Utah, Feb. 12, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“It’s quite an improvement,” Stoker said.

The new station also will feature four bays for its fire engines and other vehicles, as well as an additional bay that will be used to display the Fire Department’s original fire engines. A part of the station’s main lobby will also feature a space that incorporates bricks taken from the Flood Street Chapel.

“We want to remember where we came from,” Stoker said.

The location of the former Flood Street Chapel at the corner of 400 East and 100 South wasn’t the city’s first pick for the new fire station, yet checked all the right boxes for city officials when it became available in 2021.

Due to structural issues that impacted the old Latter-day Saint chapel, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opted to close the chapel with plans to sell the property. A condition of buying the property was the demolition of the old chapel that had been built in the mid-1950s.

This file photo shows the Flood Street chapel in St. George prior to its demolition, St. George, Utah, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society, St. George News.

“A lot of us have fond memories of the Flood Street Chapel,” St. George Mayor Michele Randall said.

Many people who grew up in St. George likely either attended weekly services or visited the chapel at some point for a wedding or dance or production of some sort over the years.

Before its closure, the old LDS chapel was also known as the 5th and 6th Wards’ chapel for many years, according to the Washington County Historical Society.

In 1980, the bishop who oversaw the 6th Ward at the 400 East chapel was a young Daniel D. McArthur, who was called to the position in 1978. He would go on to serve as a member of the St. George City Council and then serve as the mayor for 20 years starting in 1994. Serving as the ward bishop before McArthur from 1973-78 was Grey Larkin, who was also elected as the mayor of St. George from 1978-82.

“Nothing in my mind can be better to replace (the church) right now than our fire station headquarters,” Randall said.

The city of St. George bought the property from the LDS church in mid-2021 for some $1.1 million and tore the chapel down in late 2022.

This file photo shows the original Station 1 on 1000 East, St. George, Utah, circa May 2022 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Both Stoker and Randall thanked the LDS church for allowing the city to buy the property, which they also said would be a great addition to the downtown area.

“This station will be in the heart of St. George, so it will be in a great place,” Randall said.

The new location provides ample room for the Fire Department, as well as a place needed to maneuver its large fire engines in and out of their bays. The access to downtown St. George will also provide better response times for fires and other emergencies and better fire insurance ratings for the surrounding area.

Station 1’s current location on 1000 East has seen traffic become increasingly congested – especially during the months the university is in session – and can interfere with the Fire Department’s ability to promptly respond to an emergency.

Other properties had been looked at by the city, including one offered by Utah Tech University and another the city bought along a southern part of Main Street. The property offered by the university didn’t have the space needed by the Fire Department for its fire engines, while the second wasn’t as close to the northern parts of the city’s center as firefighters would have liked.

A rendering of Station 1, the new fire station to be built on the site of the former Flood Street chapel on 400 East in St. George | Rendering courtesy of the city of St. George

Stoker estimated it’ll take about 18 months to build the new fire station. Between now and then, the Fire Department will continue to operate out of the original Station 1, which is now owned by Utah Tech.

The city of St. George sold the 38-year-old fire station to the university in late 2023 for $1.5 million. The university will take over the property once the Fire Department has moved to the new Station 1.

The new Station 1 is the fourth fire station to be built for the city by Watts Construction, which previously built the fire stations in Little Valley and Dixie Downs and is currently building Station 10 in the Desert Canyons community.

“This building will not only serve our community but serve the firefighters who will call this building their second home,” Watts CEO Chris Boudrero said.

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