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Fire company gives away house so it can be torn down


TANEYTOWN -- For Matt Smith, the red brick, two-story house in the first block of East Baltimore Street must have been a bargain too good to pass up.

Dating back to the 1800s, the home at 35 and 37 E. Baltimore St. appealed to Smith because of its brick exterior and the assorted furnishings inside that could be used in his construction business.

Last week, Smith took ownership of the house -- its bricks, mortar, windows, doors and foundation -- without turning over a dollar to its owners. The Taneytown Volunteer Fire Co. gave the house away, requiring only that Smith tear it down. He does not own the land.

The fire company already has a permit from the city to raze the house. Members are in the process of obtaining a county permit.

The fire company awarded the bricks and mortar to Smith to make room for a proposed expansion at the 50-by-200-foot parcel. The fire company, which sits next to the site, bought the property about 20 months ago for $115,000.

"It was rented when we first bought it," said Earl Lookingbill, fire company president. "[The tenant] rented until this year. We gave them notice the first of the year and gave them until July to get out."

When the tenants moved out a few months ago, the fire company began advertising "a free house" in a local newspaper and on a sign in front of its 20-year-old building.

"We had two people who talked about moving the house," Lookingbill said. "But I don't think a house-mover would want to tackle that. I don't know if the house would stand up to moving."

Lookingbill said relocating the house would have been burdensome because it sits close to nearby buildings and power lines.

The fire company, he said, hopes to build an addition to its existing building. The company hopes to add two more bays, a bunk room and a shower. The bunk room, he said, is needed for an ambulance crew. Showers are needed because officers frequently deal with hazardous materials.

L "We have to have a place for those guys to shower," he said.

Other plans call for parking, a larger meeting room, storage space and an office for the fire company president, fire chief and ambulance captain. The company now has neither storage nor office space.

The additional bays, Lookingbill said, will solve problems in getting the company's four pieces of equipment out of just two bays.

The fire company is not planning to buy additional equipment, he said.

Plans for the addition have not been made final, and Lookingbill said he didn't know the cost of the proposed project. Even so, he said, the volunteers have been busy conducting fund-raisers, including bingo games and a mail solicitation.

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