Fire companies put fund-raising proceeds into three new pumpers

December 30, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Three of the county's volunteer fire companies have bought new pumpers in recent weeks, spending nearly $800,000 altogether.

"You have to do a lot of bingo and fund-raising and raffles, the whole routine," said Thomas Nevin, head of the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Firefighters Association and chief of the Glen Burnie company.

The companies, Odenton, Earleigh Heights and Arnold, accumulated small sums at weekly game nights, annual community dinners and form donations.

On a spectacular night, a bingo game will bring in $600, said Wylie L. Donaldson, vice president of the Odenton volunteer company.

But on a few recent nights, the company lost money on bingo because players hit the big prizes, he lamented.

Odenton's rescue pumper, a $253,000 vehicle outfitted with $75,000 in new equipment, represents a relatively recent concept in firefighting equipment.

Traditionally, rescue equipment was carried on a ladder truck. But that vehicle, Mr. Donaldson said, is not particularly efficient when responding to car crashes and some types of fires in which removing a trapped person and having water on the scene are the priorities.

"Do you take the rescue equipment or the ladder truck? Or do you need water? You take water first. But then you need the second truck quickly," he said.

In addition to hoses and water-pumping equipment, the rescue pumper is outfitted with tools to extricate people from mangled cars, from large metal cutters to air bags that inflate to lift a vehicle that has flipped over onto a person.

The pumper is dedicated to Murray O'Malley, 90, the sole surviving founder of the 62-year-old volunteer company.

It took three years to raise the down payment and another decade to pay it off.

The Arnold Volunteer Fire Department replaced a pumper truck that was older than most of its 18 members.

But the new, $250,000 pumper had to be custom-built to accommodate the physical needs of both the neighborhood and the firefighters, said Mike McHugh, chief.

"We needed a short wheel-base engine," he said, explaining that the vehicle has to make a tight turn to leave the firehouse and drive onto Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard.

Much of the neighborhood where the Arnold company is to be the first to respond includes narrow, winding roads and riverfront homes.

To maneuver through those areas, the Arnold truck's wheel base is 10 inches shorter than the standard 178 inches, Mr. McHugh said.

He said that because several members of the company are short, the new truck was built to carry some of the equipment lower and within their reach, and some heavy items are on slides for easy movement.

One of the smallest volunteer fire companies in the county, Arnold does not have the luxury of having a contingent of members who devote their time to fund-raising.

It took 10 years for the company to raise the money through its annual mail solicitation.

Further delaying the purchase was a switch in the county's allocation of state firefighting money, which meant the volunteers did not get about $100,000 toward the truck that they had hoped for.

A few years of bingo, carnivals, mail solicitations, shrimp feasts and dances are paying for the Earleigh Heights company's $265,000 pumper.

"We have a lot of members who don't really ride the equipment, they just do the fund-raising for us," said Chief Mike W. Robinson.

With 150 volunteers, including about 30 devoted to fund-raising, it is among the larger volunteer companies in the county.

The new pumper uses efficient, large-capacity hoses 5 inches in diameter. The standard in the county, as in many other places, is 3 1/2 inches.

The larger hoses eliminate the need for nearly all supplemental pumping equipment and are becoming standard in more urbanized areas, Mr. Robinson said.

The Odenton and Arnold pumpers can be adapted to take the larger hose, should the county decide to move toward that.

Mr. Robinson said the new pumper includes upgraded safety equipment, such as chains for the wheels that drop at the touch of a button.

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