Bridges cause problems for emergency services

August 17, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

The discrepancy between an overhead railroad bridge and modern fire equipment is keeping Carroll County fire departments from having access to houses on Spring Mills Road south of Westminster.

And emergency services and county officials are finding the CSX railroad company equally inaccessible when it comes to answering questions about another railroad bridge in Hampstead, said Scott Campbell of the Emergency Operations Center.

Mr. Campbell reported yesterday to the county Planning and Zoning Commission on the railroad bridges and other items.

The fire trucks are too tall to clear the Springs Mills Road railroad bridge safely and reach the five houses and farm land beyond the bridge.

"The engines are too tall to go underneath it," Mr. Campbell said after the meeting. "Now all the apparatus are too tall. They just physically can't get under it."

The Westminster and Pleasant Valley fire companies used to have smaller engines, such as the 1963 model, Mr. Campbell said. "But there are no more small pumpers any more," he said.

The only firefighting equipment that can fit under the bridge now are brush trucks and support units.

The standard fire engine -- from 9 feet 6 inches to 10 feet 2 inches tall -- has no access to the area beyond the bridge.

That road "is the only way to get to those houses," Mr. Campbell said. "Right now, [fire companies] are relying on brush units. But they are not intended to fight a structural fire.

"The brush unit is meant to be a rural water supply. It would be a misapplication to use a brush unit for a house fire."

It is unclear who owns the railroad bridge, which crosses Spring Mills Road and isparallel to Ridge Road (Route 27) about a mile outside Westminster.

Mike Evans, director of the department of general services, has told the county commissioners about the problem and is waiting for their reply, Mr. Campbell said.

In Hampstead, the fire company is having a problem determining the weight-carrying capacity of a CSX railroad bridge on Houcksville Road, Mr. Campbell said.

The fire company has told the county's emergency services officials that the posted capacity of the bridge has changed on several occasions.

"One time it is posted very low, and another time it is posted as very high," said Mr. Campbell. "It seems appropriate that the chief [of the Hampstead fire department] is concerned about it."

Mr. Campbell said CSX officials have not responded to many inquiries about the bridge's capacity to handle the weight of firefighting equipment.

In his report to the county planning commission, Mr. Campbell wrote: "Mike Evans has asked Keith Kirschnick [director of public works] to assist in determining an accurate capacity of this bridge. . . . Keith's initial response indicates that he is experiencing the same lack of cooperation from CSX as we did."

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