EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 10, 2012

Firehouse fixes delayed by burst pipe

By Brian Messenger

---- — METHUEN — A water pipe burst inside the Central Fire Station early yesterday morning, flooding the garage floor and delaying ongoing repairs to the concrete slab for at least several days.

The incident, which occurred around 3 a.m., capped a rough weekend for the Fire Department’s facilities. Early Saturday, an alleged drunk driver crashed into the East End station, causing what fire Chief Steven Buote has described as severe damage.

The city is expected to call in a structural engineer to conduct a full assessment of the East End station.

Years of wear and tear left the concrete floor at the Central Station with deep cracks, damaged rebar and an uneven surface. Repair work to the roughly 2-foot-thick slab was initially scheduled to conclude yesterday with the application of a final epoxy coating.

But that last step was put off temporarily after a valve on an overhead water pipe gave way. The pipe is used to fill pumper trucks with water. Buote said heaters and blowers were set up yesterday to dry the floor.

“It didn’t harm anything,” said Buote. “It’s just going to delay the job for a couple days.”

Buote said he hopes to have fire apparatus back inside the Central station by the end of the week. The station is on Lowell Street and was built in 1899.

The floor repairs are expected to cost about $100,000. During the repairs, Engine 1 has been stored at the West End Station on Bean Street and a rescue truck at the East End Station at the corner of Swan and East streets.

But with one of two bays at the East Station now damaged as a result of Saturday’s crash, Buote said the rescue truck will be parked outside the Central Station until the repairs are complete.

Jose Almonte, 42, was seriously injured after his Mercedes SUV slammed head-on into the station, pushing the left side of the building off its foundation, wrecking the garage door and buckling and cracking much of the brick wall.

Police said Almonte will be summonsed for driving while under the influence of liquor and a marked lanes violation.

A building inspector has determined firefighters can still sleep in the station, though only one truck can stay in the building.

The cost of the repairs has not yet been determined, but Methuen Public Works Director Raymond DiFiore said yesterday he is hopeful Almonte’s car insurance and the city’s building insurance will cover most of expense.

Shortly after the crash, a contractor built a temporary wall along the left side of the building to provide support. DiFiore said the contractor suggested the city hire a structural engineer to perform a thorough damage assessment.

“He feels as though there’s a structural issue on the side the guy ran into,” said DiFiore. “He must have hit it full force.”