NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The long-awaited North Little Rock Fire Station No. 8 is officially up and running following years of work and months of setbacks due to the March 31 tornado.

NLR voters approved a half-cent sales tax back in 2017 to fund this new fire station, and it was almost complete prior to the spring tornado.

Now, months later, it is finally up and not only in a convenient spot for the city but it is said to also be better for the firefighter’s health.

The new station has all the bells and whistles, with two drive-through bays and one back-in bay to store additional fire trucks and response vehicles.

Fire Chief Gerald Tucker said it also comes with some potentially life-saving features.

“This station’s designed with three zones: the hot zone, which we’re in now, the warm zone and the cold zone, which keeps carcinogens in this area,” he explained Monday. “Our firefighters can go in here and decontaminate then they can go to the living quarters.”

Those features mean something to Karen Robinson, whose husband, Jerry, worked for the NLRFD, specifically the former Station No. 8.

Jerry Robinson, known as “Redbear” by his colleagues, died in 2022 after getting cancer, something many firefighters are getting due to the chemicals they inhale in the line of duty and in their uniforms.

“To watch my husband fight like he did, I always told him, ‘You’re my hero,’” she said.

Robinson’s name is now outside the new fire station on the new memorial.

Tucker said this is the first fallen firefighter memorial for the city.

“Karen’s husband was the last name added to that memorial in 2022 and also my best friend,” Tucker said.

Robinson said she is encouraged not only by the memorial, but the new facility having features that are designed to prevent firefighters from getting cancer.

She said coming to the ribbon cutting reminded her that this is her second family, and it is something her husband would have wanted her to do.

“Redbear, he’s at home here,” Robinson said. “He would have absolutely loved it.”

Mayor Terry Hartwick said the convenience of the new station, located in Burns Park, is also said to help the citizens of North Little Rock and speed up response times for the fire department.

Firefighters are prepared to start taking calls out of the new station by Monday night.