Modern station to fight fires

New firehouse in New Windsor has many amenities

September 25, 2005|By SHERIDAN LYONS | SHERIDAN LYONS,SUN REPORTER

Work crews adjusted the overhead doors of the apparatus bay for the new firehouse where the New Windsor Fire & Hose Company No. 1 can now park its engines with room for three more.

A 1909 ladder wagon, with wooden wheels and ladders, was the only piece of equipment at the fire station last week, as it was being readied for a grand parade yesterday from the High Street firehouse, built in 1955, to the new $4.5 million facility on Route 75.

"This is going to be really different," said Richard Hooper, president of the company.

That's an understatement when comparing the new firehouse with the old building, which could barely squeeze two engines side by side on its upper level, and was situated on a small town street that meant tight turns as the equipment grew bigger.

The apparatus bay - a soaring structure that dwarfs the old station in the heart of town - has four double drive-through doors and can hold eight vehicles, at 82 feet by 75 feet 8 inches, Hooper said. Each level has a ground entrance.

The company has five vehicles - two engines, a brush truck, a medic unit and a utility vehicle - that had to be parked two upstairs and three downstairs in the old firehouse.

The new firehouse has a large stainless steel kitchen and a social hall on the lower level that can hold 275 people, available for rental and convenient to the adjacent carnival grounds, said Hooper.

The lower level has 10,545 square feet, the upper 27,505. In addition to the apparatus bays, the upper level includes offices with large windows and a bunk room for volunteers.

Hooper and Dennis J. Falvey, vice president of Maryland operations for Kinsley Construction, went over a list of last-minute items for the new building Tuesday.

New Windsor Mayor Sam Pierce said he and the council won't miss having the two engines at the rear of the room where they hold their monthly meetings, "especially when the fire siren goes off."

Hooper said the company once deliberately disrupted a meeting to pull its engines in and out - to prove the point about the old facility's inadequacies.

The Town Council's next meeting Oct. 5 will be at the new firehouse, to which the town has pledged $10,000 a year for five years. And, said Pierce, "there's a lot of sweat equity from everybody."

The town officials are hoping to get permanent office and meeting space in the old New Windsor school building on Route 75 (Green Valley Road) in front of the new firehouse.

That's still a possibility, said Thomas J. Rio, chief of the Carroll County Bureau of Building Construction.

The interiors of the 1935 school building and its two later additions have been torn out successfully, Rio said. The county is considering using about two floors for the new headquarters of the Carroll County Public Library. An architect's survey is expected within the next six weeks or so.

"The county would like to use it for the library headquarters, if the architect tells us that's a reasonable renovation," Rio said.

The library headquarters had been planned at the new Finksburg branch, but the cost was too high - $3 million on top of the $4.9 million budget for the project.

Plans to temporarily house some functions of the county Sheriff's Department at the old school have been abandoned, Rio said.

Hooper said the fire company also had looked at using the school building, but instead put the new firehouse on its old ball fields. "We started, probably back in the '80s, looking for land to expand," he said.

The town and the fire company officials are pleased that a plan to extend High Street between the new firehouse and the old school out to the wider, faster Route 75 has been put back into State Highway Administration funding plans.

Steven C. Horn, the county planning director, confirmed that the road project has been reinstated after being pulled from the state's capital program.

The fire company was chartered in 1908 with 34 members, according to its history, and its first firehouse on High Street was completed in 1912. The fire company disbanded in 1916, because of lack of interest and fires, but reorganized in 1948. The High Street firehouse was built next door in 1955.

The company has about 70 active members, and includes two paid positions, a 24-hour paramedic and a part-time driver, Hooper said. Its response area runs from the Frederick County line east past Westminster, north almost to Taneytown and south almost to Mount Airy.

The new firehouse has the original sign for the fire company, which was found in someone's garage. Outside the building is a bell made for the company in 1912. A courtyard is to be laid there with memorial paving stones purchased by company supporters.

Hooper, 57 and a 39-year member, said he's been too busy to be sentimental until a trip back to the old station gave him pause.

"I was over there this morning for the first time in a while," he said. "When I walked in, it was like the walls were bare."

Then he went back to the list. Despite the number of things left to do, he said, "We're going to be in service this weekend."

sherry.lyons@baltsun.com

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