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Ground broken for new La Crosse fire station next to UWL

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Firefighters and city leaders pose for a photo at the honorary groundbreaking of La Crosse Fire Station No. 2 on Monday, April 11, 2022. (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

A busy La Crosse fire department has started building its first new fire house since the late 1960s.

An honorary groundbreaking took place Monday for Station No. 2, near UW-La Crosse’s Coate Hall.

The new $5.5 million station on La Crosse Street will be more centrally located than the firehouse it’s replacing on Monitor Street, north of the marsh, which built in 1956.

City council member Doug Happel led a task force years ago, which made plans for two new stations in the next couple of years.

“What we really have in La Crosse right now is a 21st century department operating out of…mid-20th century buildings,” says Happel, “and now we’re finally moving that forward.”

Building new stations has been a mission of Fire Chief Ken Gilliam during his five years in La Crosse.

La Crosse Fire Chief Ken Gilliam speaks at the honorary groundbreaking of Station No. 2 on Monday, April 11, 2022. (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

It’s Gilliam’s last week on the job before heading to take on fire chief duties in Avondale, Ari., just outside of Phoenix. Gilliam is excited about the improvements for firefighters that the new station No. 2 will include.

“This station raises the bar considerably for firefighter and employee safety, firefighter decontamination, gender equity and really basic human privacy needs,” Gilliam said, referring to new restrooms and showers for firefighters.

Gilliam’s last day on the job in La Crosse is Friday. Interim chief Jeff Murphy said Monday the new station site is on land which used to be a city park decades ago.

“We spent a lot of time looking at real estate throughout the city,” Murphy said, “and the whole time, the city owned the piece of property that we were looking for.”

Fire Station No. 2 is scheduled to open a year from now. Before then, construction should start on another new station off Gillette Street, replacing one that’s 80 years old.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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