A new fire station on St. Paul's East Side will help improve emergency response times through the entire city, Fire Department and city leaders promised as they broke ground Friday.

The new Fire Station 7 in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood will be built across the street from the existing fire station that has been there since the 1930s. The city has allocated $10.75 million towards the project as part of its capital improvement budget.

"[This] is one system. So if the East Side doesn't have the service that they need, we end up having to pull resources from another part of the city," Mayor Melvin Carter said at a groundbreaking ceremony outside the station. "So putting a new asset on the East Side helps to protect the West Side, and Frogtown, and the North End, and downtown, and every other part of our city."

When finished, the station will feature 15 dorm rooms, five apparatus bays for emergency vehicles, separate spaces to decontaminate and store protective equipment and a community room for public education and outreach.

It will also house the state's first electric fire engine, which is expected to be built within eight months.

The new facility will replace a 92-year-old station that leaders consider outdated. Plans for an upgrade have been in the works for years, they said.

"We started in 2019, and to see them finally breaking ground, and the opportunity to expand our services ... it's super exciting," Fire Department Chief Butch Inks said.

Deputy Chief Roy Mokosso said the number of service calls has increased with the city's population increasing. The number of residents has gone up 6.4 % since 2010, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Mokosso said replacing the existing facility, which has little parking space for fire trucks and equipment, will help personnel respond to fires, overdoses and emergencies more quickly.

"If we can drive down call times, if we can drive down response times, if we can keep appropriate rigs and service, then we're always available to respond to any emergency as quickly as possible," Mokosso said.

Inks said the building should be ready in about a year.