Bel Air to dedicate new facility for firefighters

May 06, 2001|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

A $5 million, state-of-the-art fire station will be dedicated in Bel Air today with a focus on the future and a warm nod to a century-old past.

Officials will dedicate the station at 109 S. Hickory Ave., the location where in 1890 the town's residents paid 10 cents each to create the Bel Air Fire and Salvage Company.

A 1-ton brass bell that rallied volunteers to barn and house fires beginning in 1903 has been refurbished and placed in front of the new firehouse. Crafted in a Baltimore foundry, the bell bears the original name of the volunteer group, but the bell's clapper now strikes courtesy of electromagnetic power.

The 31,000-square-foot brick house has nine gleaming bays where ambulances and pump, ladder and tower trucks stand ready for calls. The two-story building has all the comforts of home - which it sometimes becomes for weary volunteers.

Sleeping quarters and a large classroom/meeting room are on the second floor. Volunteers can use a computer room, exercise machines and kitchen, do laundry or retire to an entertainment room with a large-screen television set.

A museum in the foyer features a 1931 fire-call log, with notations in near-perfect penmanship, and an 1840-vintage wooden water main from beneath the streets of Detroit.

Millard Purcell, the dean of the local fire service, says that when he started in 1939, volunteers responded to 100 calls a year. Last year, the station responded to more than 5,500 calls in Bel Air, the rapidly growing Harford County seat, and surrounding communities, including Abingdon and Forest Hill.

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