MERRILLVILLE | Most of the remodeling work at a Merrillville fire station is finished, and more enhancements are being planned for the Fire Department.
In particular, town fire officials want to upgrade equipment, including the breathing apparatus firefighters use.
"We're working on that now," Ron Dudley, a Merrillville Fire Protection Territory Board member, said regarding establishing financing for the equipment.
Merrillville Deputy Fire Chief Jim Lilley said the department's existing breathing apparatus is outdated.
Besides buying new equipment, fire officials also are exploring if the department should have a cross-trained ambulance crew staffed by firefighters, Lilley said.
"There's a lot of research that has to be done with it," Lilley said of the proposal.
The town once had its own emergency medical services department, but town leaders decided to turn it over to a private ambulance company in 2008.
Plans for new equipment and examining other ways to enhance the department come after workers in January completed most improvements to Merrillville Fire Station No. 1, Lilley said.
The department still has some minor "punch list items" left to complete there, he said.
The project included remodeling bathrooms and sleeping quarters. Training rooms were created, the kitchen was updated, new energy-efficient lighting was installed and the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system was improved.
The improvements accommodate the 12 full-time firefighters hired in October.
Dudley said Merrillville's first full-time firefighting crew has improved response times since they were hired.
"The full-timers are doing a damn good job," Dudley said.
Faster response times help to reduce damage caused during fires, Lilley said.
"I think everybody is working great together," he said.
The department was completely staffed by volunteers before the town hired the crew. Volunteer firefighters continue to assist during emergency calls.