New firehouse honors Peoria’s first Black fireman
PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - In just a few months, construction for the city’s brand new Fire Station 4 will wrap up, and it will honor the River City’s first black fireman.
It’s a project three years in the making, and Assistant Fire Chief Shawn Sollberger says Edward B. Gaines Fire Station 4 will give the 61605 a huge boost.
“We have many, many firefighters that have strong ties to Station 4 - that territory. This fire station, its district, its citizens - they mean the world to us,” Sollberger said.
Denise Moore - executive director of Peoria’s Minority Business Development Center - was the first to pitch the idea during her time on the city council.
“I contacted (Gaines’) family. They gave me some pictures and recounted some stories that he had told his family members about some of the indignities that he had to suffer,” Moore said.
Moore adds in addition to helping an area that badly needs it, the name change remembers a man who broke barriers.
“I’m hopeful that on school tours out into community, they will come to the fire station, see this plaque with his picture, and ask about him,” Moore said.
The new building cost around $3 million to put together, split between city and state funds.
Sollberger called the transition ‘bittersweet’ - the current Station 4 on Southwest Jefferson is the oldest in the city and the building’s future is unclear.
“The west wall was failing. The bathroom situation, the plumbing and kitchen - it spirals out of control when you have a building of that age,” Sollberger said.
Construction on the new building - located at Western and Howett - is set to wrap up around early March.
When the new building is up and running, it will house Truck 4 and Engine 4.
Copyright 2022 Heart of Illinois ABC. All rights reserved.