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Open house and promotion ceremony celebrate firehouse reopening
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Nearly 41 years after a group of citizens came together because they recognized a need for fire protection in their community, the fire station where it began was reopened to serve that same community with a fulltime staff.

Fire station No. 3 at Harmony Church Road near Nix Bridge held an open house on Monday afternoon to celebrate the event.

"This community saw a need for fire protection and banded together and raised the money, and took money out of their pockets and because of their efforts, we are where we are tonight," said Director of Dawson County Emergency Services Lanier Swafford.

Families, friends, Dawson County Emergency Services employees and local officials spent time looking through the recently renovated station and the heavy equipment.

Dawsonville resident Virginia Kirby and friend Monique Burruss stopped by with Kirby's grandsons to let them get a look at the trucks. They heard about the event through their church, Lighthouse Baptist, which provided finger foods for the event.

Visitors were able to check out the inside of the house including kitchen and bedrooms that are now ready for round-the-clock occupancy.

"They put new vinyl siding up, redid the floors. They put the new deck on the back, new paint, new heat and air," explained Firefighter/EMT Joseph Fowler, who will call the renovated station home during his shifts. "They pretty much renovated the whole building. It will be nice. It's kind of homey."

The station was previously fully manned but moved to a volunteer firehouse once the Liberty Station No. 2 was opened on Hwy. 53 East, near Dawson Forest Road.

Since that time residents and emergency service workers alike have realized that the need for the No. 3 station to be fully staffed was still there.

"Even though the call was in this territory, Station 2 had to pick it up," Fowler said. "So a lot of the calls for Station 2 come out of this area. I know of two just today that came out of this area. So the call volume is here. We just didn't have the manpower or the people to do it. We do now and it is going to help out a lot."

Last year the Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted and approved a $400,000 budget to staff and equip the station on a fulltime basis again.

Station No. 3 will now cover calls that come in from Kilough Church Road north on 400 to the Dawson/Lumpkin County line and from the Etowah River on Hwy. 136 East to the Hall County line off Price Road.

"The fire station level is where the difference is made," said Swafford. "In simple rooms like this is where the effort takes place to serve this community."

At the conclusion of the open house, the station served as a backdrop for a ceremony promoting five firefighters, all of whom have previously held rank.

The lower level of the station was full.

"It's very seldom we are all gathered together like this," Swafford said. "It is reflective of many, many hours of preparation, development, training, of personal commitment and the realization of professional goals. While you might question the decision to hold the ceremonies in this aged station, it just reflective of that-this is where the difference is made.

"We use it tonight as an example of what hard work and dedication can do. "

The promotions included: Ricky Rexrout, deputy chief of administration, Capt. Paul Cloud, Lt. Jeremy Cranford, Lt. James Free and Lt. Chris Morris.

"They bring experience to each of their positions with them. Becoming an officer requires that individuals assume a leadership role," Swafford said.

"Leadership is simple, it's just not easy."