Renovation, new building would rescue fire company

Volunteer department squeezed into old quarters set to get $900,000 loan

Lineboro

October 16, 2003|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

They've lost a few mirrors off the big fire engines, but most of the members of Lineboro Volunteer Fire Department have learned over the years to back their engines into their circa 1920s firehouse without a scratch.

"You've got about this much space," said John L. Krebs IV, his thumb and forefinger about 2 inches apart.

"I can hit it pretty good," he said, laughing to clarify that he means guiding the equipment through the doorway, not hitting it. "But it's a challenge."

Now, the fire company is in line to receive a $900,000 loan that would be used to renovate the old building and build an annex with wider doorways.

"We need the annex to make room so we can expand and not be as cramped - sitting elbow to elbow and knee to knee," said Marianne Warehime, president of the fire company. Warehime aims to have the project completed by March 2005.

One morning last week, Douglas W. Patterson, fire police captain and emergency medical technician, and firefighter Stephen E. Buhl were showing one of the company's fire engines to a group of wide-eyed children from St. George's Christian Pre-School near Hampstead, for Fire Prevention Week.

"It was nice," said a shy 4-year-old, Amanda Koogle of Manchester, wearing a red plastic fire chief's hat as her father, Keefer Koogle, photographed the event.

The annex will be set back about 20 feet from the front of the main building and have a pitched roof and three bays, said Krebs, a building committee member who joined the company in 1971 and was chief from 1981 to 1996.

Krebs lives next to the redbrick firehouse in the 4200 block of Main St. (Lineboro Road), and he works down the road at Kopp's Co. Lumber, where several volunteers, including another former chief, Levere Kopp, work.

The Lineboro company was organized in 1915, and the original firehouse with its white wooden bell tower was built beginning in 1919, Krebs said. A flat-roofed annex was built on the left side during the 1970s to house equipment, and two sheds of corrugated metal and wood have mushroomed in the back gravel lot.

The company has six pieces of equipment: two fire engines, an ambulance, the air unit, a brush truck and a utility pickup truck. Old Engine No. 71 from the 1950s is being restored out back.

Pennsylvania is just over the hill past the railroad tracks, and lettering on the engine proclaims the Lineboro company "Protectors of the Mason-Dixon." The company is No. 7 in Maryland and Pennsylvania, Warehime said. Its first-due area includes not only the corners where northern Carroll and Baltimore counties meet, but also goes well into southern Pennsylvania. It has one of the county's two air units, serving purified air for the eastern half at hazardous-material scenes and in other situations where firefighters require air.

A low, Depression-era concrete dam lies across a branch of Gunpowder Falls as it flows between the firehouse and Krebs' home. About six years ago, he said, the fire company bought the two-family house on the other side of the firehouse with an eye toward expansion.

Last month, the tenants moved out of the house - the home of Marion F. Kaltrider, a past president and a member of the Lineboro company for more than 50 years, until his death in January 1996, Krebs said. With the county commissioners' recent approval of a $900,000 loan, the company is poised to build its annex at the site of the house.

By the end of this year, the company expects to have $250,000 in its building fund to put toward the project's estimated $1.1 million cost.

In addition to raising money through traditional basket bingo, barnyard bingo has been a big fund-raiser, netting $50,000 to $60,000 in 11 years for the building fund, Krebs said.

It also has been raising money from auctions, farmers' markets with donated crops and fruit, and its "Bedlam in the Boro" Haunted Hayride and House of Horror, which starts tomorrow. At last year's Halloween event, all but three nights were marred by rain, said Buhl, who began helping with the hayride before he joined the company.

This fall looks far more promising for the annual event, which runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 21.

Main Street will be closed at 4.30 p.m. Oct. 25 for a Halloween parade for children, Buhl said.

The renovation of the main firehouse is to include showers and bunks for male and female firefighters, and bringing the building up to the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The kitchen will be improved with the bathrooms and the gear room. To make room for the showers and bunks, the company will have to eliminate an old stage upstairs, with a painted backdrop that features merchants' signs with three-digit telephone numbers.

The hall that seats 100 for banquets or church suppers will be increased to accommodate 170 to 180, with more open space, Krebs said.

Now, Patterson said, "You have to pull the equipment out to make room for the church suppers."

The annex, about 55 feet by 100 feet, will most importantly have three bigger bays.

The company doesn't have much alternative, Krebs said, adding, "The equipment's gotten a lot bigger - and the doors on the old side have been replaced twice."

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