ABOUT THE SITE AND THE BRICKSMITH
Many people ask me "why did you create a Lego® Fire Department site? Too much time on your hands?" Yeah. I wish. The honest answer is this. I love the Fire Department. I've been a volunteer firefighter since 1991 and I enjoy every minute of it! I also love Lego®! I've been collecting them since 1980.
I started out with a very small town. 3 road plates by 3 road plates (or half of my grandparents' kitchen table). My grandfather, who was retired at the time, spent all of his retired life watching TV in the kitchen, so he had one half of the table and my Lego® had the other half. Obviously, there was not much room.
About this time, my cousin and I began to hang out with each other more and more. I then moved my town downstairs on my enclosed front porch on half of a ping pong table. This increased the size to 5-1/4 plates by 6 plates. We split the table in two and thus created "Rutherford" and "Nutley," the two towns that we were from. Since there was a "1/4 plate" area, the beach was born. Then, the roof on the front porch above the table began to leak. Every time it rained, my town got flooded. The table began to warp in the center. Soon after, the other half of the ping pong table was brought in from the garage and replaced the first table. I then nailed a piece of plywood over the warped table, while filling in some of the center with small pieces of wood, to build up the center. Then, I put the two tables together. The towns were now 12 plates by 5-1/4 plates.
After about 10 years there, my mother wanted to take over the porch. So, everything was moved up to the attic. The attic was already filled with storage and there was little room to maneuver, let alone set up a table. So, the Lego® buildings and baseplates sat all strewn around up there. Two years later, I got married and moved out. Two years after that, my grandmother died. The second floor of my mom's was vacant. My cousin moved into my grandmother's "apartment." Him, my mother, and I cleaned up the attic back in January of 2002. We now had room to setup the Lego® once again and I began to, but on a smaller table top.
I began to go on eBay and look for old Lego® sets that I never got. I found some custom Lego® buildings and purchased them. I then found a custom Lego® site and stumbled on the MAALFD site. I viewed Lego® City's Fire Department page and was amazed. I then viewed the City of St. Lego's page and fell on the floor. I decided to show my cousin both sites. He too was floored! We then looked at what I had and said its time for a change. We decided to refurbish all of the fire trucks and build firehouses for those trucks that did not have a home. Instead of having all of the trucks that Lego® put out, we now have REAL looking fire trucks and firehouses. By the way, since there was more room now, the layout was a bit larger. It was 13 plates by 8 plates. A few years ago, Mom wanted to clean up more of the attic. Basically, she was saying that the layout had to come down. And...it did. Currently, all of my Lego® sets are packed away in zip lock bags and boxes at my home.
A while back, I purchased a web site program and was going to do a frequency web site for the fire buffs, but I lost interest in it. As I was rebuilding the trucks and firehouses, I thought about putting them on a web site. I pulled out the web program, messed around a little bit, and borrowed a friend's digital camera. Next thing I knew, LegoTwpFire.com was born.
FIRE STATIONS AND APPARATUS
The original firehouses in my layout were the ones Lego® put out beginning with set #6382, and ending with the last two stupid looking sets they sold from 1995-ish forward. All fire apparatus Lego® sold, I had. I even scratch-built 3 engines which looked like the Lego® "Fire & Rescue Van." Now, all of the old trucks are out, and new trucks are in. I have 16 Engines (3 spares and a mini-pumper) and 7 Trucks (1 is a spare), 4 Rescues (again, 1 is a spare) and a Haz-Mat operating out of 10 firehouses. The Fire Academy and its apparatus was purchased from the Lego® Hills FD. Modifications are being made.
Originally, every firehouse on the layout was a Lego®-sold firehouse, except "Station 2 - Mortimer Avenue." I scratch-built that firehouse. That firehouse is a replica of my engine company's firehouse on Mortimer Avenue in Rutherford, NJ. Before I renovated it to its current look, it had only 2 bays, a smaller office and hall area. Basically, it was almost 1/2 the current size. Now, It is extremely close to an exact replica of my firehouse. Below is the Architect's drawing of my real-world firehouse from 1971.
The original "Fire Headquarters," in its original design, was just a brainstorm. I did not model that firehouse after any actual firehouse. However, the more I looked at it, the more I thought that it looked too small". I began thinking about expanding it. Before doing "the final phase of construction," I looked at Lyndhurst, NJ's firehouse. I've always like their firehouse. I thought, one more bay, and some other little things, and Fire HQ will look similar to Lyndhurst. So, I did it. This firehouse lasted as the LTFD Fire HQ until May 2006. As I built the other firehouses, I took notice that the others were looking better than Fire Headquarters. I feel that a Fire Headquarters should be the crown jewel, the Taj-Mahal, the largest firehouse in the department. So, the search for a new Fire Headquarters was on. I finally settled on Foster City, California's Fire HQ. The real firehouse is actually part of the Foster City Hall. So, I had to make some changes, which I am very pleased about. The firehouse took 6 months to complete.
The Original "Station 3 - Roberts Road" was modeled somewhat like Sacramento, California's Station 1, located on Q Street. To view the Sacramento CA FD's web site, click here. St. Lego® City FD has made a replica (also with some minor mod's) of Lego® Twp's Station 3 as their Cummings Park firehouse. Since the uniqueness was lost, I decided that I needed a new Station 3. After viewing some fine detailing of buildings on www.brickshelf.com, I felt "I can do that." After searching and searching, I found a firehouse that I wanted to model. That firehouse was Station 34 of the Austin, Texas Fire Department. The result is the current Station 3. To see the inspiration, click this link: Station 34 Austin, Texas FD.
The old "Station 4 - Alpine Span" was another brainstorm, with an antique look. It just looked right. I had fixed up my apparatus to look a little more realistic and consistent between the different style chassis. I found that the "new" apparatus would not fit in the existing structure, especially since the rounded archway trimmed the height of the bay door. Thus, the search was on for a new firehouse. I was trying to look for an antique look, but I was not coming up with anything that impressed me. So, I ended up steering away from the antique-look. I decided to build the new Station 4 with the same red & grey color scheme, but look very similar to the current Station 5, with some modifications.
The original "Station 5 - Chapman Drive" was modeled somewhat after Co.1's firehouse in North Arlington, NJ. Not much like it, but somewhat like it. I wasn't very happy with it, so I made changes. I did this about 2-3 times. Finally I decided that I had to redo it. After looking at different FD sites and looking at Hasbrouck Heights, NJ's new firehouse, I was able to come up with an idea. The new Station 5 turned out to be a combination of Hasbrouck Heights' new firehouse and Missouri City, TX Stations 3&4.
"Station 6 - Route 35" was a bit of a brainstorm. I looked at some different styles of firehouses and some architectural designs. This is what I came up with. After a while, I felt that Station 6 was too small. So, I decided in February 2011 to build a new firehouse. Thus, I found an interesting design and color scheme.
"Station 6 - Westfield Avenue" is based on an architect's design for a firehouse in Brewster, NY. I do not know if the firehouse will be built or has been built. My findings on the internet show that the firehouse has not been built as pictures of the Brewster Firehouse show a brick building. I had to modify the design since Lego® does not make an inverted corner 33 degree slope. Either way, it is a great design and looks pretty good in Lego® bricks. Here's the link to the architectural drawing: http://www.mitchell-architects.com/pages/brewster.shtml. Oh, and for those wondering, Station 6 - Route 35 is still built in bricks, although the storyline states that the building is leveled.
As an avid fan of Gamewell telegraph fire alarm systems, I decided to name the street that the new firehouse was going to be located after a department who fought tirelessly to keep the system intact, despite the opinions of the Mayor and most of the council. Ultimately, the FD lost the battle and the system was completely removed in the early 80's. As a tribute to that department, the street was named after them.
"Station 7 - Morningside Avenue" was a brainstorm after looking at the Sacramento FD's site.
"Station 8 - Fairfield Terrace" was originally designed to look like San Mateo, CA new Fire Station 26. According to their architects, the firehouse was completed in March of 2003. New pictures have been uploaded on both the architect's site and the City of San Mateo's site. Since I was waiting quite some time to see the finished product, I built it to a slightly different specification. The color scheme appears to have been changed. In the future, I may modify Station 8 to look exactly like San Mateo Station 26. I haven't decided as of yet. Click the link above to see San Mateo's Station 26.
"Fire Academy" was purchased from Jason Price when he began to disband the Lego® Hills Fire Department. I wanted another firehouse but did not have the time to search and scratch build it. I received the firehouse and inspected it. It was ok. I liked it. One thing bothered me....I didn't build it. I couldn't take pride in it. I upgraded some of the windows and the garage doors, but again I didn't built it. I didn't want to change too much since I liked what Jason did. Guess what? I'm searching to do a new station and make that strictly the fire academy.
In my search to replace the Fire Academy with a new station, I found a great design on Brickshelf. I really liked the look of the firehouse. It was different from what I was looking for, in style. I tried for quite a long time to find out who the creator was, so I may get their permission to build it out of Lego® bricks, with some modification. I was unsuccessful in finding out who they are. So, I built it as "Station 9 - Shady Ridge Road."
WHY AN ALL PIERCE FLEET?
A very good question, indeed! While I can build ALF, Seagraves, E-One, Mack, Spartan, Sutphen, etc, my favorite brand and look goes to Pierce. In my 21 years of real world firefighting experience and 10 additional years chasing the fire trucks around as a youth, I've seen many different brands of fire apparatus. I have also worked with a variety of different brand of apparatus. Aside from Mack, I find Pierce to be of better quality and more durable. I've seen Pierce apparatus that is 20 years old that is in much better operating and physical condition than other manufacturers' trucks half the age. It does not matter whether we're talking about a career department or a volunteer department. I know career departments that beat the hell out of their truck, and Pierce apparatus in those departments are unstoppable and more durable. I've heard horror stories of other manufacturers. I've seen the shoddy work of other manufacturers. Imagine a $30,000 PTO driven generator falling out from your new truck as it was being delivered to your firehouse. Yes, it happened to my real world department by a lesser brand manufacturer. While the company made good on it and repaired the damage and replaced the generator with a new generator, it showed how bad their quality control department is as well as their fabrication department. Other well known manufacturers have filed for bankruptcy protection. Pierce has a higher resale value and has proven themselves over and over again. It is based on my real world experience that I can say that I believe Pierce is the best brand in North America. I do not know much about brands in other parts of the world, so I can not and will not compare them to Pierce. That said, Pierce is all I will build for the Lego® Twp Fire Department.
THE TELEGRAPH FIRE ALARM BOXES
Yes! My town (Rutherford, NJ) still uses Gamewell Fire Boxes! I like the system and had it when I had my layout. Before taking down the layout, I improved it and added them throughout the town as both street boxes and master boxes. In addition, Rutherford has 2 Gamewell Diaphones. Both of them are inoperable at this time. They were turned off due to complaints and a lawsuit against the town (which hurt the FD, since the area towns all operate on the same fire channel, thus causing severe intermod when Rutherford and another town try talking at the same time) as well as problems with valves sticking. As a matter of fact, the air tank at the West End Firehouse was removed. The fire horn that you see and hear on the Gamewell page is Rutherford's fire horn atop of the Borough Hall. Again, I like the system. So, I added them to all of the firehouses. Some of the "Additional Signals" on the Gamewell page is taken from the Rutherford Fire Department Signals.
Primarily, this site is supposed to be fun. Being a firefighter for about 21 years, I've learned that people aren't very fire-safe. I want to reach out to people and teach them or remind them of some fire-safety issues, while at the same time, have fun with the site. With that, I decided to put some helpful tips and what to do after a loss from fire in the Fire Prevention Bureau page. Hopefully, adults and kids will view it and learn something without realizing it. At times, I will receive an email from teachers from around the globe who ask to have a safety link added to the site. I'm pleased to do that and will continue to do so as long as it promotes safety and nothing questionable. So, I do welcome your safety links.
As a real tribute to the men and women in today's fire service who died in the line of duty, I have created the LTFD Fallen Firefighters' Memorial and gave it its own page. I will try to continue to scroll the names of those who died in the line of duty (as I find out) as a tribute. Its a bit tough to do since it seems to happen more often than I thought. The memorial itself is a firefighter consoling another firefighter, as he holds the helmet of a fallen firefighter. The page is a bit of a tear-jerker and is a very sincere tribute.
In conclusion, I hope that this site is fun to look at, as well as somewhat informative. It is constantly under construction with new ideas and pictures of the ideas. I like to hear your opinion about the site. Please feel free to write and let me know what you like or don't like. In the meantime, please continue to check out the site at least weekly for updates!