Fire Station 20 ready for service at former site of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro
IRVINE — World War II veteran Bob Blankman, 96, of Orange, first set foot on the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in 1943, the year the base opened.
Blankman, a U.S. Marine, had just returned from the Battle of Guadalcanal, where he loaded ammunition in .50 caliber machine guns on F4F-4 Wildcat fighter planes.
The planes long gone, the Great Park now occupies part of the site, and the newest addition to the 1,300-acre park is Orange County Fire Authority’s Station 20, which was unveiled to the public Thursday, July 19.
Blankman was the guest of honor for the Station 20 dedication ceremony, and among the local dignitaries who cut the ribbon to culminate the festivities.
The veteran has returned to the former air base several times and is amazed by the population growth.
“We need it in his area, with this many people,” said Blankman of the station. “To tell you the truth, I was sorry to see the aircraft go. That had been my life when I was on the base.”
Station 20, the first fire station on the redeveloped Great Park space, replaces a temporary station on Trabuco Road that had served the area for years. It sits on 1.25 acres on the former site of the air station’s officers’ club, at 7050 Corsair, and is staffed with a paramedic engine company, a four-person truck company and a battalion chief.
“A fire station like this is going to be a real benefit,” said OCFA Chief Brian Hennessy, who has been with the agency for just over three months. “Adding the station further reduces response times and that is our primary goal … to get our firefighters to you as quickly as we can.”
The station also houses one of two OCFA hazardous materials response teams and one of three in the county.
“Anybody who has been involved in the construction of a fire station (knows) it’s not an easy process,” Hennessy said. “They are very specialized. It’s very difficult.”
In a 2016 deal with the city, the Irvine Company paid $4.87 million to build the station.
“This station is a shining example of public service and of partnerships, Irvine City Council member Melissa Fox said.