Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008

A tall order for Laytonsville fire station

County engineers working on plan to fit new fire truck in 43-year-old building

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How do you fit a 36-feet long, 10-feet-9-inches tall ladder truck into a firehouse with 10-feet tall doors?

Build a bigger doorway and buy taller doors.

The Laytonsville Volunteer Fire Department expects a $500,000 state-of-the-art fire truck from the county this spring — but the historic town’s 1965 fire station is too small to house it.

‘‘The big problem is that we’re going to have this fire truck long before we have a new building,” said Laytonsville Fire Chief Stanley ‘‘Buddy” Sutton. ‘‘We are now working with the county trying to alter our firehouse to make it fit.”

Sutton said the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services will deliver the truck by June to replace a 12-year-old rescue squad vehicle the department bought with community donations.

Station leaders have long discussed a new building on department property at Route 108, known as Main Street through town, but the new firehouse will cost several million dollars and the department has $150,000 in savings.

County engineers are working on designs to ‘‘put new doors on the front of the firehouse and raise the front” entrance one foot, Sutton said. Renovations will begin as soon as the town grants permits and will take four to six weeks, he said. He anticipates it will take $25,000 in renovations for the crowded firehouse to be just ‘‘bearable.”

‘‘Really ... what we need is another firehouse because we basically outgrowed that one,” said Clark Beall, president of the Laytonsville District Volunteers. ‘‘But it’s a lot of money, a lot of spaghetti dinners, a lot of breakfasts and a lot of community” help to make that happen.

The 1965 fire station across from Laytonsville Elementary School was built on community donations after the original firehouse burned down in 1964, Sutton said. Local lore has it donations ranged from pocket change to a box of nails to cinder blocks.

‘‘There wasn’t a whole lot of time for planning,” and station elders took donations they had and got the job done, he said.

Hyattstown Volunteer Fire Department Station 9, built in the early 1900s built a separate building to house modern fire apparatus in 2000, he said.

Other fire stations such as Upper Montgomery County Station 14 in Beallsville and Montgomery County Station 5 in Kensington have experienced crowding as trucks have gotten larger.

Since 1952, Laytonsville’s fleet has grown to include one 2,000 gallon engine tanker, one 3,500 gallon tanker, one heavy rescue squad vehicle, two fire engines, one ambulance and one brush truck, which sit in tight quarters alongside ‘‘Minnie,” a 1930 Brockway pumper purchased from the Hyattstown Volunteer Fire Department in 1952.

The fleet helps the department serve the upcounty, including: Laytonsville, Sunshine, Damascus, Montgomery Village, Gaithersburg, Washington Grove, Olney and Sandy Spring.

Fire department concerns recently played into Laytonsville politics as town officials debated placing a roundabout at the juncture of Route 108 and Warfield Road, just yards from their property.

The department entered into talks, hoping to open a new building facing the access road, Sutton said. He was concerned that the department’s large tanker trucks may have trouble navigating a roundabout, which is still under consideration.

Renovations are ‘‘just going to be a Band-Aid on a bigger problem,” Sutton said.