OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- To help fill in a coverage gap in booming southwest Overland Park, the fire department is building a new station at 179th and Quivira.
Overland Park Fire Station 48 will be located on the Blue Valley Southwest High School campus, offering some unique learning opportunities for students down the line.
Construction on the station will start in 2021, with an opening date in 2022.
The Overland Park Fire Department held a public meeting Thursday afternoon to give community members information about the new station. They also talked to people about an upcoming fire science program.
"Obviously the proximity of the location itself has opened some opportunities that we are pretty excited about," said Kristi McNerlin, a spokesperson for the Blue Valley School District. "In 2020 we are looking at a fire science program, and that’s in partnership with the Overland Park Fire Department."
The Overland Park Fire Chief Bryan Dehner said he's excited about the new opportunity.
"We look to attract and retain occupational athletes," Dehner said. "Hopefully we can grow these in our backyard and hire them as soon as they’re out of high school. We have the facilities and the expertise available to apply to those students who are interested in a career in fire service."
Dehner said in the area around 175th and Quivira, the OPFD used to get about 50 calls a year. As the population increased, the calls more than doubled to about 115 a year.
By adding a new fire station here, Dehner said response times will improve.
Currently, Overland Park pays Johnson County Fire District Two to cover the area. In 2022, that money will be used to hire new firefighters -- firefighters who could come out of the developing Blue Valley fire science program.
"We are in the beginning stages of looking at what the components would be," McNerlin said. "That will be something that the OPFD and us will work together to even develop the curriculum that will be needed to be part of the program."
The fire science program is expected to start in 2020.
"There are lots of other career paths that students are interested in, and we want to make sure they have exposure to those and the fire science program would be one of those," McNerlin said.
There's already a similar program at Olathe West, the Public Safety Academy. Students there, like Kelsey Montgomery, can take classes that prepare them for careers as EMTs, police officers and firefighters.
"I want to get a head start on my fire service career, and this program with the Olathe Fire Captain here gets you ready to get your certifications right out of high school," junior Kelsey Montgomery said.
With more programs like the one coming to Blue Valley, Montgomery said, kids will have great choices and opportunities.
"I think it's a great start for young kids high school age to get started on their fire service career," Montgomery said.