Call volume has increased almost fivefold since Livingston Parish Fire Prevention District No. 1 in Albany began handling emergency medical response calls, according to a news release from the Louisiana Public Facilities Authority.

With the additional call volume, officials with the Livingston Parish Fire Protection District No. 1 determined they needed a larger, more modern and better-equipped fire station.

The fire department is scheduled to move into its new building in January.

Demolition of the original fire station, built in 1968, began in June. The $250,000 project, which is made possible, in part, by a $33,000 zero-interest loan through the LPFA grant, should help improve response time and efficiency for this growing department, said Livingston Parish Fire Protection District No. 1 Chief Joe Foster in the release.

The former Hammond firefighter said the expansion comes not a moment too soon. When Foster assumed the chief position in 2013, the fire district board asked him to steer the department to serve more of the area’s medical service needs.

“Our board saw a need, and we responded. Our department handled 196 incidents in 2012. Our EMS program started in May of 2013, and call volume increased to 638 calls. We expect to top 1,000 calls this year,” Foster said. Firefighters are now required to have emergency medical responder certification, as well.

“This new station speaks volumes about our community’s faith in its fire department and the role the fire station plays in the community,” he said. “Also, having a modern station will do so much for our recruitment. Although we are now able to hire some contract firefighters, our department still relies on our volunteers.

“Our crew is excited about the new station. Maybe it’s everything firefighters experience together, but fire departments are families; that’s part of the attraction. Now, we can give our fire department family a better working and living environment so they can more adequately and safely do their jobs.”

The new station will have almost double the space of the original, at 5,000 square feet. It will accommodate four firetrucks instead of three and will include firemen’s quarters, a day room, kitchen, locker rooms, showers, two offices and a communication room — all intended to improve the working environment and increase record-keeping and efficiency. There also will be an intercom and paging system to increase response time.

“Adequate fire and emergency response is critical to all citizens, and the construction of the new fire station in Albany is a blessing to improve the safety and welfare of resident and businesses in Fire District No. 1,” said state Sen. Dale Erdey, who represents the area. “I am proud of the employees and volunteers of Fire District No. 1 and commend them and Chief Joe Foster for working to make this dream a reality. I also appreciate the assistance of LPFA by providing zero-interest to our taxpayers.

“We hope we never have to call upon our emergency response teams, but we know that when the need arises, they are there for us, and that is truly a blessing that we never take for granted,” he said.

Livingston Parish Fire District No. 1 borrowed a total of $225,000 to finance the project, including a $33,000 zero-interest loan through the LPFA Zero Interest Local Government Bond Bank Program, which will save the District $2,306 in future interest payments.