Ferndale fire company observes 50th Unit formed as war drafted firemen

October 04, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

Men were going off to war in 1942, and Ferndale resident could no longer count on stations in Linthicum and Glen Burnie to muster enough firefighters to protect them.

So 10 men, led by the George Law, owner of the local hardware store, formed the Ferndale Men's Club. They bought a 1936 milk truck, rebuilt its frame with plywood boards and gave Ferndale its first firetruck.

The Ferndale Volunteer Fire Company will celebrate its 50th anniversary today with a parade and the dedication of its newest piece of equipment, a 1992 International ambulance.

At 72, Barney King, the company's assistant chief and vice president, is the only one of the Ferndale's original firefighters who remains at the station.

He remembers transferring from the Linthicum company to charter the Ferndale company when he was just 21.

"The community supported us real good," said Mr. King, puffing on a cigarette.

Over the years, he has watched the company expand from a garage behind the hardware store to a brick building at Broadview Boulevard and Ferndale Road housing two engines, an ambulance, a chief's car and a floodlight unit. It also includes a large social hall, where bingo is played twice a week.

The number of calls the company receives has grown from 900 to 2,300 a year.

The firefighters who make up the company also have changed. Women firefighters were accepted in the early 1970s, the number of paid firefighters has increased from one to six and volunteer training has become more rigorous.

"When we first started, if you could put a Band-Aid on, you were an ambulance technician," said Ed Wilson, the company's secretary, who joined in 1956.

Membership in the company peaked at 75 members in the early 1960s; there are 59 members today.

The company strives to attract new members, but Mr. Wilson said it sometimes is hard to find people willing to give up their free time.

"The dedication and morale is not what it was 20 years ago," he said.

But the company retains a family atmosphere. Many of the members are related. Mr. Wilson's wife is a volunteer, and it is not unusual to have members who are brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.

Twice in the company's history, firefighters have faced the grief of losing members in the line of duty. Carl Sinchcomb died March 28, 1966, when he stepped off a moving firetruck and hit his head. George Driggers, a 16-year-old volunteer, was killed fighting a house fire on Dec. 26, 1976.

Mr. King and Mr. Wilson, both retired electricians, spend nearly 300 hours a month at the station. But they no longer ride the firetrucks.

Mr. Wilson said he doesn't miss it. "It's not exciting after 40 years," he said.

Mr. King, however, said he sometimes does miss the excitement of boarding the screaming firetruck and racing to a fire.

Both men visit the station regularly. Mr. King blamed force of habit: he's been doing it so long, he can't stop. Mr. Wilson cited another reason.

"If I go home," he said, "my wife picks on me."

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