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FIRE DEPARTMENT SETS SIGHTS ON NEW HOME

East Aurora's fire department is looking for a new home.

The department -- complaining of growing pains -- is about to launch a feasibility study to identify prospective sites for a new fire hall.

"We're in a very serious space crunch," Fire Chief Roger LeBlanc said Thursday. "This fire hall is small for our apparatus."

"Our preference is to build a new fire hall, but it's in the very early preliminary stages," he said.

The fire department, which just bought two new pumpers in March for $820,000, had to have them built smaller so that they would fit into the 50-year-old fire hall on Oakwood Avenue. "They couldn't exceed 118 inches in height," LeBlanc said.

The fire hall is working with smaller bays, common when it was built in the 1950s. LeBlancc said fire trucks of that era didn't carry as much equipment as they do today.

Further spurring the cry for a new hall is a $2,500 state grant announced this week by Mayor David DiPietro. The grant, obtained through Assemblywoman Sandra Lee Wirth, R-Elma, will be used for a feasibility study.

Village officials and the fire department intend to have local architect Donald Aubrecht conduct a study to identify new sites. LeBlanc declined to say what areas of the mostly developed village might be considered.

"We've been looking at the (need) for a couple of years, but we've been looking harder at it because of the two new pumpers," LeBlanc said.

Moreover, LeBlanc said that when the department replaces its 1984 heavy rescue truck -- which is the next piece of equipment in line to be replaced -- a new one will not fit in the current fire hall.

LeBlanc said it would be difficult to renovate the existing fire hall and expand it, since it shares its rear parking lot with the Aurora Senior Center.

"That building does need some upgrades," Village Administrator Kimberly LaMarche said. "It needs windows and lacks enough training space. It's very difficult to maneuver fire trucks. They're just about maxing out on space. Plus, Rural/Metro shares space in a bay."

LaMarche said it's a good time to study the department's needs.

However, Village Trustee Jerry Thompson II questioned that.

"I'd have a hard time turning around to taxpayers to fund a new fire hall," he said, referring to a new elevator project that was completed last year at the fire hall. "I'd rather have the $2,500 for safety equipment."

The elevator project was funded by a $90,000 federal community development block grant and $40,000 in local money. Before the existing fire hall opened in 1954, there were three fire halls in the village. The department now has 72 active members.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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