PIRTLEVILLE — As Thanksgiving approaches, members of the Pirtleville Fire Department have an additional reason to be thankful.

Ground was finally broken on a new fire station Monday, bringing a project that has been years in the planning a little closer to completion.

The PFD has been in its existing location at Irvine and McKinley since the 1970s and things were getting a little cramped. During the 1980s a section of land, located a block south of the current station at Grace and McKinley, became available when the Catholic Diocese of Tucson put it up for sale. The PFD purchased the land and then began raising money for a new station.

With enough funds now on the books, Memo Silva of G&S Excavating put his backhoe into the soil Monday and scooped up a bucket full of dirt signaling the start of construction. The project is expected to take several months to complete and should be finished sometime in late spring. GAR Construction of Douglas will lay the concrete foundation and then assemble the all-metal building.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Clarissa Velasco-Whicker, president of the PFD board of directors. “I’ve been on the board 18 years and to see this finally happen means a lot. All the funding for this came from raffles, carne asadas, all kinds of different fundraisers over the years. We finally had enough funds that we were able to get started. Money for this was all individually raised. I can’t wait to see the foundation being poured and the walls going up.”

The new building will be 50x60 square feet which is bigger than the current fire station.

“We’ll be able to fit six trucks in here,” PFD Fire Chief Tony Vaca said. “It will have an office, public bathrooms, a conference room and a small kitchen.”

“It’s going to be big, it’s going to be nice,” Whicker added.

Brothers David and Albert Velasco, lifetime residents of Pirtleville, remember not having a fire station growing up.

“To see something like this means progress,” Albert said. “We worked so hard to get in that other station. I’m sure glad this is happening while I am still here to see it.”

David said a local father from a church in Pirtleville, named Father Root, loaned them $600 back in the late 1960s which was used to purchase the first fire truck that was on sale from a reservation at a surplus auction. He remembers shortly after the purchase they had a fire but no one was familiar with how to operate the pump so they opened up one of the main valves on the truck and began throwing buckets of water on the blaze.

“For years (the fire truck) was housed at the Rodman building on Grace Avenue,” David said. “We kept it there for a while before building the station we have now. That building was also financed through donations. We’ve never had any kind of government support. It’s always been our own doing.”

Vaca said Pirtleville residents have been patient over the years waiting for this day to come.

“It’s finally here,” he said. “We’ve broken ground now we just have to wait for the construction to be completed. The people here are so special, they’re always willing to help no matter what. I can’t thank everyone enough for making this dream come true. To be honest, I wondered if I would ever see this become a reality.”

PFD Assistant Fire Chief Bobby Zamora thanked the past as well as the present firefighters for their support over the years.

“We know it hasn’t been easy,” he said. “We hope this will bring us some new firefighters as well.”

Vaca said there are currently 10 paid firefighters on staff and two vacancies available. He made it a point to once again thank Southwest Gas for the truck they recently donated to the PFD.

Louie Montes de Oca, a board member for the PFD, said he is hoping that by adding this new fire station insurance rates for those living in Pirtleville will go down.

Decan Luciano Gonzalez, who resides in Pirtleville, attended the groundbreaking ceremony offering a prayer before sprinkling holy water on the site.

“We ask the Lord to bless this ground,” he said.

“This is truly a special day,” Vaca added. “I want to thank you all for helping this day to finally come.”