Maryland Department's $645,000 Fire Engine Doesn't Fit In Station

Pasadena, M.D.-- The next time the county buys a shiny new fire engine for one of its stations, officials will first make sure it fits through the doors.

That's a lesson the fire department learned the hard way last week when officials discovered a $645,000 quintuple combination pumper, also known as a quint, is too big for the 16-year-old Arminger Fire Station.

"There wasn't quite enough space," said Division Chief Stuart McNicol, a county fire spokesman.

He explained that the engine - which carries a pump, water tank, hoses, an aerial ladder, and ground ladders - is about an inch too tall to "comfortably" fit in the station on Mountain Road in Pasadena.

He said the stations' three bay doors were designed to have a 12 foot clearance, but one actually tops out at 11 feet 11 inches.

"It was designed one way, but built another," he said. Newer stations are built with at least 14-foot-tall bays, he said.

Describing the necessary changes as "minimal," he said county officials are now planning to remove part of the station's facade to enlarge the door opening.

The department won't take delivery of the quint until June and probably won't have it fully equipped and ready for service until late August or early September - meaning they have plenty of time to fix the station. He doesn't know how much the renovation will cost.

Chief McNicol said the problem was "not completely unanticipated." He said firefighters at the Arminger station knew it would be tight and asked for a new quint just delivered for the Severn Fire Station to come over to check clearances.

This isn't the first time the county has bought an engine too big for its intended station.

Chief McNicol said that back in the 1980s the county had to modify the overhead door at the old Brooklyn Park station to fit a new ladder truck. There also have been a few engines over the years that have come with "protruding components" that make them too tall for the bay doors, he said.

Typically, fire officials are able to get rid of those components or otherwise modify the truck to fit them inside the stations.

And with fire engines getting larger and larger, Anne Arundel County also isn't the only department running into this type of problem.

"It happens all the time and I don't know why. You'd think it would be a no-brainer," said Carl Peterson, of the National Fire Protection Association.

"We had to take a few hard knocks to learn that," said Mark Brady, spokesman for the Prince George's County Fire and EMS Department, estimating they've had to modify a dozen fire stations in the past 10 years to get new engines to fit.

Division Chief Rick Moore of the Washington D.C. Fire Department noted that back in the early 1990s a new station was built that was actually too short for existing ladder trucks.

"No one factored in the folding doors," he said. The department had planned on stationing a ladder truck there, but decided not to when they discovered it wouldn't fit.

Both departments say they now make sure to measure their available space and include that in specifications for new apparatus.

"We are very conscious of that," said Chief Moore, since the city is still using dozens of older stations, some with only 10-foot-tall bay doors designed to accommodate horse-drawn wagons.

Published April 19, 2006, The Capital, Annapolis, Md. Copyright