RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) — One of Rantoul’s fire stations has been around for nearly 50 years and officials say it’s time for some upgrades.

They’re asking for $750,000 from the village’s American Rescue Plan Money. Chief Chad Smith said it will help them drastically improve station two on Maplewood Dr. near Pine Ave. Smith said these improvements aren’t just about having a bigger facility. It’s about making sure they’re safe.

The Rantoul Village Board voted unanimously to approve the request on Tuesday night. The Chief expects construction to begin in June, with the project being complete by the end of the year.

“This has been a conversation in the Rantoul fire department for many years,” Smith said.

More than half of Rantoul’s 30 firefighters work at station two. Lieutenant Gary Wilson said an upgrade is long overdue.

“Everyone has different schedules and things to take care of, family first,” Wilson said. “So, we always stress that as well. But, on meeting nights and stuff like that, it gets a little crowded.”

But space isn’t the only reason they’re looking to expand the building. Wilson said first responders’ safety is most important.

According to the CDC, cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters and they’re more at risk when they’re out in the field. That’s why Wilson said adding showers, washing machines, and a dryer will go a long way toward helping his department.

“It’s really protecting the firemen so that we’re not taking stuff home, you know, carcinogens, things like that home to our families,” Smith said. “We’ve already lost two firefighters to cancer in this department who’ve been lifelong friends. And that’s the last thing we want to do is see anybody else have to go through that again.”

Smith said the fire department is like a family and they want to make the job as attractive as possible so they can bring in more members.

“If we’re able to provide nice facilities, up-to-date equipment and make their job as safe as we possibly can, then hopefully it not only protects our current members. But also has another potential from the community wanting to serve their community in the fire department,” Smith said.

The village board passes the vote, the chief expects construction to start in June and to be done by the end of 2023.