Playing with Fire

Too Big For Fire Station

By Michael J. Legeros


So you spent your holiday break scratch-building a miniature fire station. You measured your models, built the thing to scale, and lo and behold, one of the trucks doesn't fit. It's too long, high, or wide. Don't be disheartened, as the same thing happens with real fire engines. Except in reverse.

Many a department has had the misfortune to discover that their newly delivered apparatus is too large for its quarters.  Heck, for years here in Raleigh, North Carolina, our Snorkel couldn't use the "front door" of Station 15.  Because of the steep angle of the apron, it exited through the rear bay doors, through the parking lot, and onto an access road at a adjacent park.  (The latter complete with an assist from the Street Department, with trimmed a concrete curb nearest the rear of the station.)

Here are some similar stories, culled a while back from members of a firefighting mailing list.  Happy holidays.

  • "High Point, NC, ordered five 75' quints. Three of them, however, couldn't fit in the stations because of height problems. We looked at one that was stored in the basement of their headquarters station. I hear they were sold without having ever been used." 

  • "Around 1975, Stony Point, NY was anticipating the delivery of their first aerial apparatus, a 75' snorkel. Having measured the building and checked the specs for the truck, they dug up, removed, and replaced the apparatus floor. Needless to say, when the truck was delivered, it still didn't fit. So they had to dig up the floor again." 

  • "My hometown in eastern Massachusetts, name withheld to protect the not-so-innocent, ordered a ladder truck about 12 years ago. According to the drawings, it would fit inside the station, until it struck the top of the doorway on its very first call. The apparatus sat back behind Station #2 until the main station underwent a rehab four or five years later." 

  • "I recall when our new 105' E-One aerial tower arrived in Adelphia, NJ. All of the measurements had been done and our 1965 station was found sufficiently tall to accept the new unit. On the day of its arrival, we drilled outside with the technician from the factory. The unit was not backed in until later in the evening and made it by about two inches. We are still debating whether to raise the door or lower the floor." 

  • "Most electric doors have a little rope that hangs from the ceiling, that's used to disconnect the door from the motorized track if the power fails. Several years ago at Forbes Air Force Base, KS, the rope caught on the top of a tanker. The light bar was destroyed but not the door. The driver stopped in time. Something similar happened in Leon Springs, TX, when our big pumper/tanker caught the rope. The lower panel of that door had to be replaced. Thank goodness the Chief was driving and not me!" 

  • "A number of years ago, we purchased a brush engine built on a GMC chassis with an American-Coleman all-wheel drive conversion. (We get about 400" of snowfall annually.) When the truck was delivered, however, it was too high for the fire station. The light bar was at least six inches higher than the top of the bay doors. So, we relocated the light bar to the front bumper where it was actually more effective. (Because it's the same height as the rear window of a car or light truck.) And even though we later built a new station with much taller bay doors, the light bar remained on the bumper. As far as I know. it's still there today, though the truck was sold to another department last year."

A version of this column originally appeared at Code 3 Collectibles.


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Copyright 2017 by Michael J. Legeros