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Traditions Honor the Opening of Polk’s Kathleen Fire Station

Published on Oct 8, 2021

More than a dozen Polk Fire Rescue personnel and three county commissioners squeezed together and heaved the hulking fire engine backward into the Kathleen Fire Station during its grand opening Thursday.

The engine push-in is a tradition more than a century old and is a mainstay of ceremonial station openings. The ceremony is a fire service tradition that dates to the late 19th century when fire departments used hand-drawn pumpers or horse-drawn equipment.

“Upon returning to the station after a call, the horses could not easily back in the equipment into the station,” Polk Fire Chief Robert Weech said to an audience of about 100 guests and staff. “So, they were disconnected from the fire equipment and the firefighters themselves would push the equipment back into the bay. This is how we’ll open up this station.

“You guys ready?” Weech asked.

The group gathered around the front bumper, reached out to brace themselves against the machine and began to push.

“Come on, we’ve got this!” a firefighter yelled. And with a push from the group, the engine began to roll backward into place.

The new station at 6750 Kathleen Road is the newest of Polk’s stations. It’s design incorporates the latest in safety design and also incorporates future growth in the area.

“This facility has the ability to decrease carcinogen exposure that is believed to cause firefighter cancer,” Weech said. “This station was specifically designed with what is known as a red, yellow and green area that works to provide living areas that are free from suspected carcinogens and cancer-causing agents. Contaminated gear is kept away from the cleaning area, which is also kept away from the living area.

“We have incorporated the best practice models available to keep our firefighters safe,” he said.

All new fire stations in Polk County will be designed in similar ways. Three more are planned to open this year, and another four stations are planned for construction in 2022.