110-year `Rock' ends run.


Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

WORCESTER - Fondly known as "The Rock" to many residents in the Union Hill and Grafton Hill neighborhoods, the Providence Street fire station is closing today after a run of nearly 110 years.

As of tomorrow, the two-bay station will be a staging location for ambulances operated by UMass Memorial Health Care, the city's contracted emergency medical service provider.

The station's two firetrucks, meanwhile, will be relocated: Ladder 5 to the McKeon Road fire station and Engine 12 to the Franklin Street station.

The station's closing, which was strongly opposed by neighborhood residents - more than 1,000 people signed a petition to keep it open - is part of a reassignment of Fire Department apparatus and personnel associated with the opening last November of the Franklin Street station.

"It's sad to see this day come," said Lorraine Laurie, a longtime resident of that neighborhood. "The firefighters at the Providence Street station have been our neighbors, friends, heroes and, in many ways, our saviors. We will miss them terribly. There will be a big void in this neighborhood because this station has meant so much to us."

The neighborhoods primarily served by the Providence Street station are heavily populated with three-deckers.

Fire Chief Gerard A. Dio recommended closing the station last summer, saying it would enable the city to save $85,000 to $100,000 in capital and operating costs annually. Because of the station's age, it needed significant renovations. City Manager Michael V. O'Brien concurred with the chief's recommendation.

Chief Dio has emphasized that fire coverage in Union Hill and Vernon Hill will not be compromised by the closing the station. He said fire coverage and emergency response times should remain about the same to most areas and, in some instances, improve under the Fire Department's realignment.

Mr. O'Brien said the city will lease the Providence Street station to...

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