Firefighters sound alarm over rundown station


There are days when firefighters stationed at the Brooklyn Community Volunteer Fire Department building in Brooklyn Park want to call for help.

Their 58-year-old building in the 5100 block of Ritchie Highway needs top-to-bottom repairs, everything from ceiling lights to carpeting.

It needs an exhaust system in the engine bays.

"When the engines start up, the room fills up with exhaust which isn't healthy for anybody," said Henry Brewer, treasurer and chief administrator of the Board of Governors of the volunteer fire association that owns the building.

The problem is that the county doesn't want to commit major funding to fix a building it doesn't own though it is going to do some repairs.

As a matter of fact, the county would like to replace the Brooklyn Park firehouse, but that project is a few years down the road.

Meanwhile, the 30 paid firefighters stationed there work in substandard conditions.

In places, the paint on the interior and exterior walls is peeling. Some electrical outlets and ceiling lights are missing covers. The carpet in the front rooms and in the captain's second-floor office is torn; pieces of tape cover the spots to prevent people from tripping. Stair treads are worn.

The station has eight window air conditioners on the second floor where the firefighters have a kitchen, bunk rooms and recreation rooms.

"We call them window shakers, sitting in the windows shaking the heck out of everything," said Albert Anderson, president of the Board of Governors. Mr. Anderson said it would cost about $8,000 to install central air conditioning.

The station was built in 1937 from money raised through carnivals and community donations and was staffed with volunteers, Mr. Brewer said.

In the 1970s, the station went from an all-volunteer force to a staff paid by the county, but retained the "volunteer" in the station name.

fTC County officials are aware of the problem, and a proposal to build a $3 million facility in the vicinity of the old station is in the county's long-range plans.

No money has been earmarked for the project, which is at least two years away, said Stephen D. Halford, the county's fire administrator.

The Anne Arundel County Fire Department has committed the money to fix safety hazards at the Brooklyn Park station. County Deputy Chief C. Gary Rogers said his department received $300,000 from the county Department of Public Works in fiscal 1995 to make repairs at volunteer stations.

Mr. Halford said repairs at the Brooklyn Park station could begin by the end of the summer.

He said the county Fire Department had wanted to begin the repairs at the beginning of the year, but ran into problems with the contract bid process.

"We're not needlessly dragging our feet," said Mr. Halford. "It's just that we're working with other county agencies."

Mr. Brewer is not in a celebratory mood yet.

"I'd have to see them hammering and sawing before I'd be optimistic. It's been dragging on for a long time."

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