CSX to address roundhouse safety concerns

February 08, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

CSX to address roundhouse safety concerns

A CSX official said Thursday he would look into ways to shield several deep pits at the Hagerstown Roundhouse after city officials expressed concern about the safety of firefighters.

"If the city feels that we should be doing something about it, we'll look into doing it," said D. Kevin Hurley, CSX Real Property director.

"We don't want to endanger anyone's life," Hurley said.

Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Inc. officials said Wednesday they were waiting to make safety improvements sought by fire officials until cleanup work could be done.


Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein raised the issue Tuesday after reading a memo from Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker.

Fire department officials for years have been concerned about the safety of firefighters called to the 40-acre property because of hard-to-see pits and collapsing buildings, Hawbaker said Wednesday.

"I just think that whole complex - other than the roundhouse - should come down. We don't want to risk a firefighter's life to try to save a building that is unoccupied and probably will never be used again," Hawbaker said.

But firefighters can't just let a building burn, he said.

"It's difficult to even fight fires in those areas," Hawbaker said. The hydrant system doesn't work, so tanker trucks must be brought in from county fire departments, he said.

Bob Tracey, museum president, said volunteers patrol the property to discourage trespassing and to prevent vagrants from starting fires.

Firefighters get called to the CSX-owned property off South Burhans Boulevard three to five times a year, Hawbaker said.

Since 1994, two firefighters have been injured - one sustained a sprained foot, the other a pulled neck and shoulder - from slipping on the property, Hawbaker said.

The roundhouse, once a hub where engines were repaired and fabricated, has been idle since 1986. The roundhouse was used for three years to restore steam locomotives, but has slowly fallen into disrepair since then.

Hawbaker said he wants barriers placed in front of the pits or fencing put up around them.

Fire officials have told the city's inspection office about their safety concerns in hopes that the buildings would be condemned, but that hasn't happened, Hawbaker said.

City Building Inspector Mike Heyser said he thought it was reasonable to give museum officials time to raise funds and get the buildings fixed up for tourism.

Roundhouse museum officials said CSX is scheduled to start improving the property on April 1. The work is expected to take two to three months.

Work will entail environmental cleanup, demolishing some small dilapidated buildings and removing overhead hazards from larger buildings, said Blaine Snyder, the museum's board chairman.

Overgrown brush on the land will be cut back this spring, he said. The area would be better lighted and have improved accessibility.

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