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Fire company readies for expansion

November 19, 1997

Fire company readies for expansion

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - One by one, 11 houses and a school on the corner of Franklin and King streets have been bought, and all but one have been demolished, clearing the way for a $2 million expansion of Franklin Street Fire Company No. 4.

Construction is expected to begin in March or April, with completion set for December 1998, according to Richard Trace, the fire company's president.

"We're a progressive fire company. We don't stand still," Trace said.

Using architectural blueprints tacked up in the station's game room as a guide, Trace described the two-story, 22,736-square-foot addition and renovation project that's been part of the department's long-range plans for the past 10 years.

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"A lot of things enter into it. This is not a project done overnight. We tried to do our homework," Trace said, adding that he and other officers toured fire departments in Gettysburg and Hanover, Pa., to get ideas.

The 11 demolished properties surrounding the existing building, purchased at an estimated total price of almost $500,000, has left plenty of room for the expansion, the biggest part being the six bays that will house the department's nine pieces of apparatus, Trace said.

The last home that's standing, just down from the department on King Street, will likely be demolished next summer to make room for a parking lot, he said.

"It puts me in a bit of a bind to look for another place to live," said Dave Bigler, who's lived in the two-story home for almost 13 years and pays $250 a month in rent to the fire company.

With a wife and four children to move, Bigler, a member of the fire company, said he needs a decent-sized home and wants to stay in Chambersburg, since he works for the borough.

"It's progress. I see their point and everything. They have to keep moving with the future," Bigler said.

As it is now, the fire department has to "jockey around" four fire engines, a ladder truck, brush truck, squad truck, utility truck and an antique fire engine, which are stacked up in the three bays, Trace said.

Besides the enlarged bay area, the fire department will also have a classroom, weight room, laundry room, new men's and women's bunk rooms, offices and a museum. The second floor, where there is also a social room, will be accessible by an elevator that will open up into a vestibule surrounded by windows.

The independent volunteer fire company is paying for the project primarily through money it gets from fund-raising, bingo nights and donations, Trace said.

Franklin Fire Company, which covers parts of Guilford, Greene, Hamilton, and Letterkenny townships and Chambersburg borough, is the busiest company in the county, averaging 1,500 calls a year, Trace said.

There are 100 active volunteers and 1,200 on the roll, he said.

But finding an affordable place has been difficult so far, and the July 1 move-out deadline is looming.

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