Maryland Station Damaged by Fire

DUNDALK, Md. -- Two fire engines, including one just purchased for $600,000, two paramedic units, a brush truck and a U.S. Army Humvee were destroyed in an early morning fire at a Dundalk firehouse, according to a department spokesman.

The two-alarm blaze that began shortly after 3 a.m. caused the roof to collapse at the Engine 6 building at Dunman Way and Merritt Boulevard, a block from the Dundalk Middle School. A cause of the fire remains under investigation, said spokesman Kyrle Preis.

Officials said firefighters sleeping in the firehouse's living quarters, which is next to the fire engine bay, awoke to the sound of a fire alarm. When they opened the bay door, they saw heavy smoke and fire and immediately evacuated, Price said. Numerous explosions were reported from oxygen tanks in the medic units.

Inside were eight firefighters and paramedics assigned to the overnight shift, as well as five firefighters from day work who spent the night and two members of the National Guard who were helping crews respond to calls in the heavy snow storm. Price said one firefighter managed to drive one engine out of the bay and crews were able to train hoses on the fire "to keep it in check."

But the fire quickly spread and dozens of firefighters from other companies were called in to help. Shortly after 4 a.m., fire commanders deemed the building unsafe and crews were ordered to train water on it from the outside. Price said the roof collapsed from the fire, which was placed under control shortly after 4:30 a.m.

Three manhole covers then exploded about a block away, at Merritt Boulevard at Sollers Point Road, due to a natural gas leak. No injuries were reported. This morning, a crane was called in to remove debris.

A damage estimate was not immediately available, but fire engines can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Price said the damaged engine was just a week old and cost $600,000. "It hadn't even been put in service yet," the spokesman said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service