Fire company set to expand in Winfield

Population, bigger equipment, aging site factor in renovation

August 21, 2005|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,SUN STAFF

The rescue/pumper and tanker trucks barely fit into the 10-by-12-foot bays at the Winfield Community Volunteer Fire Department.

The two large vehicles, purchased just a few years ago, prompted Winfield fire officials to consider expanding the firehouse.

"When other companies with larger trucks fill in for us, they have to leave their trucks outside and leave them running in the winter so they don't freeze up," said Winfield Fire Chief Greg Dods.

A committee was formed two years ago to plan for the expansion of the 40-year-old firehouse. The most recent addition was more than 20 years ago.

With the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission's recent approval of the project's final site plans and a $2.9 million, low-interest bond loan from the county, the fire company is waiting for final permits to begin construction.

The project is expected to cost $3.2 million.

"In 40 years, we've grown drastically, and we need to expand," said Norman Zepp Sr., president of the Fire Department's board of directors.

Winfield has the third-largest fire district in the county, covering 46.89 square miles with a population of 15,304, said Leon Fleming, Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association liaison to the county government.

In the past 10 years, the Winfield area has grown by 1,800 people. Calls have increased largely in emergency medical services, from 569 calls in 1994 to 794 last year. Fire calls went up in the same period from 375 to 390.

"When we do our annual fundraiser, we send out letters to 5,250 households, and we have no major towns and no big businesses in our response area. We wanted to see what we needed to do to grow with the community the next 15 years," Zepp said.

The expansion will include an addition on the front (west side) of the firehouse that will have four engine bays, each 14 feet high by 14 feet wide.

Behind the bays will be 12 individual bunk rooms, new bathrooms, offices and a communications room.

Other improvements call for a new main entrance, a fitness room, a quiet room, a lounge, closed-circuit TV cameras and a new roof.

The social hall will also get a new entrance, interior remodeling and upgrades to the kitchen to meet health codes.

Like many other new or renovated firehouses in the county, the project will include an elevator and a sprinkler system.

"If you go over a certain square footage, you have to put in an elevator for Americans With Disabilities Act compliance," Zepp said.

"Before the county went to sprinklers in homes, we decided to put a sprinkler in the firehouse - we didn't feel we could ask the community to do something we wouldn't do," he said.

The company's septic system will be connected next door to South Carroll High School's treatment plant.

The existing bays on the east side will get new paint and ceiling tiles and will house the ambulance, the brush truck and two utility trucks.

When finished, the building will be 67 feet by 68 feet and will have a new brick hose tower and siren.

The building's age and the increasing size of equipment figured in the renovation plans.

"The electric and plumbing need upgrading," Zepp said. "The bunk rooms are very inadequate since we had to go to 24-hour, seven-day advanced life-support coverage."

Fire equipment also has gotten bigger.

"We cannot afford to downsize the equipment because the houses are bigger," said Dods. "Used to, when we had a house fire, we used a small fan to blow out the smoke. Now we need large fans."

If any work or cleanup is needed on the equipment, the trucks have to be pulled out of the bay because there is no space inside for moving around, Dods said.

The architectural firm of Brosso, Wilhelm & McWilliams Inc. of Baltimore designed the project. Brechbill & Helman Construction Co. of Chambersburg, Pa., will do the work.

"We do have some things the members are doing to keep the cost back, like landscaping and cleanup," Zepp said.

"We're buying some things ourselves, like a new refrigerator for the kitchen, reusing what we can and putting in motion-sensor lights to save money," he said.

The fire company is applying for grants and has planned fundraisers to help pay for the project.

County Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. said the expansion and renovation at Winfield are needed, especially the larger bays and bunk rooms.

"The way they do the [low-interest] bonds, I don't think it'll be a problem for them," Jones said.

Winfield hopes to have the project done by July 1, in time for the 2006 carnival - the company's biggest fundraiser of the year.

"By putting on the new addition first, once the outside is complete, then remodeling inside, the weather shouldn't be an issue," Zepp said. "And, we have to keep everything fully operational 24-7."

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