Jul. 15—At long last, firefighters who work out of the 19th-century firehouse at Ninth and Marion street were given a "marker" that the modern fire station with all the amenities is close to becoming a reality.
A group of firefighters were invited to sign their names on a piece of steel beam that will be part of the structure taking shape in northeast Reading across Marion Street from the existing station.
It was part of the "top out" ceremony, a tradition that can be traced to the ancient Scandinavian religious rite of placing a tree atop a new building, for the project that broke ground in the fall and is due to be completed around mid-December.
The rank-and-file firefighters took their turn with the Sharpies after Mayor Eddie Moran, former Reading Councilman Stratton Marmarou and Fire Chief James Stoudt added their signatures.
Councilwoman Donna Reed even added her signature for posterity. She recalled doing the same thing during construction of the venue at Eighth and Penn streets that is today known as the Santander Arena.
Marmarou fought for nearly 16 years to have a new fire station built after seeing for himself the shabby conditions of the Ninth and Marion station shortly after being elected to his first term.
"I've been waiting 16 years for this," he said.
Moran thanked Marmarou for his efforts and said he was proud that the project came to fruition in his administration.
"It just shows that when you collaborate and you create synergy, as I often talk about with creating a better Reading, anything is possible," the mayor said.
Stoudt, who was appointed chief earlier this year, said the project will be a morale-booster for the department and the neighborhood. The department will be able to house additional apparatus and a spare medic unit there.
"We're glad to see it coming together," he said. "I know the guys who work at the station here are looking forward to it, as everybody is. It's going to be a great thing for the department and I hope it's a step in the right direction for the future and perhaps look into other options for other older buildings, too."
Firefighter Michael Biancone, who has been with the department for 28 years, said he's looking forward to having better sleeping quarters, better living quarters and a dedicated exercise room, as well as the arrival of a new engine in the spring.
"It's going to be a great way to ride out my career," he said.
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