City fire station rededicated to honor civil rights leader

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Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids renamed a local fire station to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Grand Rapids Fire Department (GRFD) on Wednesday, March 30, celebrated the rededication of the Franklin Street Fire Station as the Martin Luther King Jr. Street Fire Station.

The rededication coincides with the renaming of Franklin Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Street in February.

The change was brought on by the Moving Ahead for Remarkable Civil Rights Heroes (MARCH) Committee, which also headed the renaming of Grandville Avenue SW to Cesar E. Chavez Avenue.

Those who attended the ceremony included GRFD personnel, city leaders, residents and members of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) as part of their annual Grand Rapids meeting, March 30-April 3.

“Names are important,” said City Manager Mark Washington. “(Wednesday’s) action by the fire department further recognizes the legacy of Dr. King and how this city actively chooses to honor him. The recent renaming of Franklin Street as Martin Luther King Jr. Street, which coincided with the renaming of Grandville Avenue as Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, continues to reverberate through our community.”

GRFD Lt. William Smith said he felt a feeling of warmth and excitement to be there for the historic moment.

“There’s so much divide in our nation, and I think this was a healing moment for our community,” Smith said. “We should encourage more moments like this and continue this type of work for future generations.”

The station is located at 115 Martin Luther King Jr. St. SE and covers a 2.6-square mile response district, including 62.25 road miles on either side of U.S. 131. It houses one fire engine, one 100-foot ladder unit, GRFD’s hazardous materials team and a service vehicle designed to control traffic and act as a safety buffer in high-speed environments.

The former Franklin Street Station was the first in Grand Rapids to be named after its street location. Before that, stations were named after the companies of the engines they housed.

“What started out as a simple tradition of naming our fire stations after the streets they are located on has taken on a whole new meaning with this rededication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Fire Station,” said GRFD Chief John Lehman. “This building and the work these men and women do each day in our community serve as a testament to Dr. King.”

The rededication does not alter the station’s operations or current response district.

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