PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria firefighters, city officials and community members on Wednesday gathered to celebrate the city’s newest fire station.

The Edward B. Gaines Jr. Fire Station 4 in South Peoria is named after the city’s first Black firefighter. He served for 21 years from 1957 to 1978.

“It’s an unbelievable moment, really, the impact within the community specifically to this zip code 61605. It’s the oldest neighborhood in the city of Peoria, oldest infrastructure, and we had the ability at the corner of Western and Howett to build a new fire station.” said Peoria Fire Chief Shawn Sollberger.

Equipped with Fire Truck 4 and Fire Engine 4, Sollberger said the new high-tech fire station will allow crews to serve South Peoria better and faster.

“Having two apparatus down here is extremely necessary. The call volume is high, fire incidents are high, so that’s why we have an engine and truck down here… We have alerting, lighting, architectural designs, technology that’s going to further enhance our firefighters’ ability to get out the door quicker, to get to information faster, and serve the community better,” he said.

Longtime resident Lavetta Ricca hopes the new fire station is the beginning of revitalization efforts in South Peoria.

“This used to be such a vibrant area, and now hopefully it will come back,” she said.

Two colorful paintings created by Fire Captain Andre Petty were also unveiled. One painting is of Gaines, while the other painting is a ram, representing Manual High School’s mascot.

Sollberger said naming the station after the city’s first Black firefighter will also serve as a boost to recruitment and diversification of the workforce.