While it is normal to see fire engines peeling out of their stations on the way to emergencies, Aberdeen’s main fire station will see different kind of activity Saturday as it opens to the public for the unveiling of renovation to the building, along with activities and demonstrations.
The Aberdeen Fire Department will host rescue demonstrations and open its newly-renovated main station at 21 N. Rogers Street to the public at 11 a.m. Saturday, vice president of the department John Bender said. Attendees will get full run of the firehouse, and can see several rescue demonstrations. Bender said the event will feature child-friendly activities like a bounce house, face-painting and fire engine rides. Free refreshments also will be provided.
Attendees can go anywhere they want in the station, and the department will have members available to explain the various parts of the renovated building.
The new firehouse has been in the works for 10 years. The outfit’s previous firehouse — built in 1972 for $500,000 — was beginning to deteriorate, and the department’s Board of Directors decided to reach out to architects in January of 2011. Time was of the essence, since the costs of building were going up faster than the fire company’s savings, but the department’s membership approved renovating the building.
One of the biggest issues with the original building was its heating and air conditioning systems, Bender said, which were so old that contractors could not find parts to repair them and, sometimes, had to figure out temporary fixes. The repairs were expensive, and the systems still failed, at points, leaving the firefighters and medics stationed at the building overnight uncomfortable.
“It really was a Band-Aid approach,” he said.
The building will feature a mural representing the fire department’s history from formation to present, Bender said, and display two antique fire engines: one a horse-drawn fire engine, the other the first motorized firetruck ever bought by the department.
Bender said that financing was difficult, and the fire department has a $6.4 million mortgage on the building, which cost $9 million in total. But the fire department was able to devote some of its savings to the project, and Harford County Executive Barry Glassman approved $1.5 million for it.
The firehouse was scheduled to be built in a year, Bender said, but the COVID-19 pandemic just about doubled the time it took.
Bender said the fire department wanted to host the event outside because of COVID concerns and said he hopes attendees will wear masks when inside the station.
The Aberdeen Fire Department is staffed by volunteer firefighters, as are the rest of Harford County’s firefighter services. Recruitment and retention continues to be a challenge nationwide, he said.