Fire officials call for new water rules

They recommend an emergency source in rural developments

`Not sure that's necessary'

Capacity a concern, they say, especially in remote areas

April 02, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare and Brenda J. Buote | Mary Gail Hare and Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Concerned about the short supply of water in Carroll's rural villages and the increasing demand for new homes in such remote locations, county fire officials are calling for tougher restrictions on developers.

Among the recommendations is a requirement that developers provide a source of water - such as an underground tank or an easily accessible pond - that could be tapped in an emergency.

"We are telling county government that we don't have the water capacity and that this is a countywide problem," said Doug Alexander, deputy chief of Mount Airy Fire Department and member of the rural water supply committee for Carroll County Fire Chiefs Association.

"In many rural areas, the supply is not there, or if it is, it is difficult to get to," he added. "There are pockets of this problem every place."

The committee is asking the county planning commission to endorse its suggested water supply requirements, which are outlined in a letter mailed yesterday to the five members of the planning panel.

"Essentially, the letter says that we are seeking standards for commercial, industrial and residential development," Alexander said. "There must be a water supply source for firefighting. We want something official, something we can work from and with."

The letter mentions the possibility of requiring residential home sprinkler systems. Alexander noted that Montgomery County requires such systems in rural areas.

Alexander stressed that the letter offers suggestions, leaving plenty of room to negotiate on several key points, including the quantity of water that would be required and the distance to that supply.

Details of the recommended requirements could be debated by the planning commission, but only the three-member Board of County Commissioners has the power to act on the proposal. The rural water supply committee is requesting a nod of approval from the planning commission, which serves as an advisory panel to the county's elected leaders.

The proposal received a lukewarm response from planning commission member Maurice E. "Ed" Wheatley: "The fire companies, in very rare cases, have asked that developers provide a water tank, but to say that each and every rural development should be mandated to have one, I'm not sure that's necessary."

Planning commission member Melvin Baile Jr. said he would "need to better understand the situation and what impacts these regulations may have before commenting."

Attempts to reach the other members of the planning panel - Robin Kriete, David Brauning and Ed Beard - were unsuccessful.

In Carroll's eight towns and in Eldersburg, supply is not as great an issue, Alexander said. Most towns have water towers for emergencies - in South Carroll, four towers hold 3.5 million gallons. As long as hydrants are present, water generally is available, he said.

A tanker truck holds 3,500 gallons, but Winfield is the only company that has such equipment, which can cost more than $350,000. Most of the county's 14 fire companies have pumper trucks that carry 1,000 gallons - enough to fight a small fire.

"We don't want to alarm people," Alexander said. "Fire services are there, and they are going to continue to be there. But people have to know we cannot build trucks any bigger. Growth is going to make more burdens on us, and we are working to meet the needs of that additional growth."

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