100 years of fighting fires Volunteers: Pikesville and its Fire Department have grown considerably since 1897. The fire service was organized a century ago today.

February 04, 1997|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,SUN STAFF

The little red manual pumper -- carefully restored after decades of storage in a garage -- looks like a child's wagon beside the massive aerial ladder truck in the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company station on Sudbrook Lane.

The contrast shows how far the company has come in its first 100 years, from the days when Pikesville was a country village distant from Baltimore to its current status as the city's highly urbanized, cheek-by-jowl neighbor.

Organized on Feb. 4, 1897, at the local Odd Fellows Hall, the Pikesville company is the second oldest in Baltimore County after Cockeysville and is among the county's busiest, with a roster of 120 men and women who last year answered nearly 4,200 calls.

They include Murray Rodman, a local businessman, who recently sat with a group of fellow volunteers taking part in a staple of firehouse life -- swapping stories while waiting for a call.

"The most beautiful thing about being a volunteer firefighter is that we can be sitting here talking to you and a minute from now we can be in a burning building, extricating someone from a wreck or helping someone in the medic unit," Rodman said.

Baltimore County has 33 volunteer fire companies, and many of their members are also career firefighters and paramedics.

12 calls a day

As Pikesville grew over the years, in great spurts in the 1940s and 1950s, its fire company grew as well. The company now handles an average of nearly 12 calls a day, more than half for paramedic service, said Glenn C. Resnick, a Pikesville businessman and volunteer captain.

The volunteers have two paid employees -- at least one of them a paramedic -- on duty during the day for instant response while volunteers are gathered by siren and pager, said Lee N. Sachs, company president and a Towson lawyer.

The company also tries to have an ambulance or fire-engine crew sleeping over at the station every night, he said.

Some aspects of firehouse life also have changed over the years. For example, women are an important part of the volunteer force these days.

Women join the volunteers

Anida D. England-Dansicker, Pikesville's first female volunteer, was the first woman volunteer to go into the career service. She is a county battalion chief.

Sharon L. Jacob, one of Pikesville's 15 women volunteers, began as a volunteer paramedic in her hometown, Cherry Hill, N.J., and wants to be a physician. She joined Pikesville in 1991 because she wanted to continue as a volunteer while attending the Johns Hopkins University.

Since graduation in 1994, she has been a paid county firefighter while working on premedical courses.

"Many opportunities have opened for women in the fire services," said Jacob, elected recently to Pikesville's board of directors.

Young members welcomed

To encourage new, young members, Pikesville began a program for high school students last year.

Jamie Lloyd, 18, a Pikesville High School senior, said he spends half a day at school and the other half at the station. He said he enjoys being a firefighter, adding, "I get credit at school for the community service."

Although hanging around the firehouse remains a tradition, these days that takes place mostly in the evenings because so many volunteers now work outside of the immediate area.

Recently, a group of Pikesville volunteers sat around talking about calls they had answered: fires and accidents, births and deaths. Some stories were funny, some were sad and many, particularly when children were involved, were tragic.

"The children are always the worst," said Rodman. But he added that nothing stops the volunteers from responding in a flash to the next call.

Pub Date: 2/04/97

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