The prospect of fire sirens and speeding engines near the Leesburg Elementary School has the Loudoun County School Board and some parents concerned about keeping children safe and undisturbed during school hours.

In May, the town's planning commission unanimously recommended that the Leesburg Town Council reject plans to build a fire substation on a 1.5-acre site in the Exeter subdivision just north of the school.

Although a final decision by the council is not due until October or November, protests have been underway since the plan was first proposed in April.

"If it's at all possible, we need to put a fire station in an area that's not residential and doesn't have a school already there," said School Board member Frederick F. Flemming (Leesburg). The School Board sent a letter this month to the Town Council to "communicate to you our concern" about the potential fire station.

Vicki Smith, a resident of Carrvale, a neighborhood near the school, has three children attending Leesburg Elementary. She has been a vocal opponent of the fire station since April, and she plans to speak at the Sept. 26 meeting of the Town Council. The council will hold a public hearing on the issue that day. Then a council committee will make a recommendation to the full council, which will vote on the matter at a later meeting.

"I want them to know that this is not really a good idea, and I'm surprised that it's gotten this far," Smith said.

Smith and about 200 other people signed a petition calling for the fire station to be built somewhere else.

"All the teachers, all the cafeteria people and all the janitorial staff signed our petition," said Smith. "The bus drivers are worried about this, and so are the crossing guards."

Smith said about 250 children walk to Leesburg Elementary, which has an enrollment of about 400. "Our school is a walk-to school," she said.

Leesburg Elementary is on Plaza Stret, and plans call for using Plaza for engine traffic.

Leesburg Vice Mayor James Clem, who also is president of the Leesburg Volunteer Fire Company, said the issue is really fire protection for the northeast part of town.

"We've been able to cover it with the one {station} we have, but with all the traffic, it takes too long to get there," said Clem. "And it's not going to get any better."

While fire vehicles are stuck in traffic, Clem said, "fire doubles {itself} every five minutes."

And he noted that a third of the department's membership lives in the northeast part of town. To answer calls near their homes, those members have to first cross town to pick up fire vehicles at the town's only fire station, on West Loudoun Street, then double back to reach the fire. "You want to get on the scene as quick as you can," Clem said. "Just by the mere volume of traffic you're going to have to put up with {going across town twice}, you run the risk of accidents."

A fire station at Exeter would cut that risk substantially, he said.

Other arguments firefighters make in favor of the Exeter site include its proximity to major streets in the area of town with the most fire calls, particularly its access from Plaza Street to Battlefield Parkway and the Leesburg Bypass. And because most calls come at night, sirens and lights would not necessarily disturb children during school hours, they say.

Ultimately, fire and rescue personnel want at least three fire stations in Leesburg, Clem said. The West Loudoun Street station would serve the west part of town and the historic district. The Exeter station, if it is approved, would serve the northeast part of town. A third station, which the department plans to build near Leesburg Airport, would serve the south part of town, the bypass and the Dulles Toll Road extension.

An alternate to the Exeter location has recently been offered by the developers of the proposed Edwards Landing development, which would be built east of the Route 15 bypass. But the development's fate is on hold while the town attempts to incorporate 34 acres of county property, which must be done before the council can grant a rezoning for the development. Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne has already denied the boundary adjustment; now the town must decide whether to appeal his decision or investigate other options to an appeal.

According to Clem, six schools in Loudoun -- Ashburn, Arcola, Lucketts, Sterling and Sugarland Run elementary schools and Loudoun Valley High School -- are near stations, and there have been no safety incidents involving them.