Value of volunteers on display at Folly Quarter fire


April 03, 2003|By Diane Mikulis | Diane Mikulis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE WEST Friendship volunteer firefighters were just finishing lunch last Thursday when the call came over the radio -- several large bales of hay were on fire just off Folly Quarter Road. Chris Stanton, Pieter Lucas and "Tiny" Tim Spicer, all volunteer firefighters at the West Friendship station, sprang into action.

A tower of smoke climbed into the sky above the University of Maryland Research Farm. Fortunately, only hay was burning -- the fire was not a threat to people, property or the cattle raised there.

With a university employee operating a front-end loader to lift and spread the hay, Stanton used a brush rake to uncover buried smoldering areas. Lucas aimed a hose spraying water from a minipumper (a small truck). Spicer was the pump operator.

Members of the Clarksville Volunteer Fire Department, District 5, responded as well because the farm lies just inside the border of their district. They and the West Friendship firefighters of District 3 were joined by a dozen trainees and training officers from the Howard County Fire and Rescue Training Academy in Clarksville.

After a little more than an hour "Brush Alarm 5-6" was completely out, and the firefighters reeled their hoses, stowed their equipment and headed back to their stations.

Stanton and Lucas, both 19 and from Glenwood, are college students and were on spring break last week. Spicer, who is a commercial truck driver from Sykesville, was on his way from Laurel to Frederick when he stopped at the station and was called to the fire.

Stanton joined the volunteer fire department when he was a student at Glenelg High School. He said that kind of work is a family tradition.

"Both my dad's and mom's sides have been involved in volunteer firefighting since the '50s and '60s," he explained. "If one person in a family does it, others will, too." He said that when looking at the names on the department rolls it is common to see several people with the same last name.

Lucas also became involved while in high school. "It's fun," the River Hill graduate said. "I just like serving my community."

Spicer has been with the department for seven years, following in the footsteps of his father, who had been at the Ellicott City station for many years.

All volunteer firefighters must go through several training courses in firefighting, rescue and emergency medical procedures. They attend the courses with those studying to be professional firefighters. Because volunteers attend part-time, it takes longer to complete the courses.

Each volunteer is expected to serve a minimum of 12 hours a week. Because they are both full-time students -- Stanton at University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Lucas at University of Maryland, College Park -- the freshmen spent a significant portion of their spring breaks at the station to keep their hours current. Spicer is able to serve his hours on a more regular basis.

Founded in 1944, the West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department serves a significant portion of western Howard, along with departments in Clarksville, Sykesville and Lisbon.

Under Fire Chief Mickey Day, more than 30 volunteer firefighters protect residents and property in the community.

Most of the calls received are for emergency medical services, usually at the victim's home. The second-most frequent call is for auto accidents, often on Interstate 70 or Route 32. Fires rank third, with many of those being outdoors or in barns.

Stanton proudly described the department's performance on a barn fire off Route 32 several weeks ago.

"The crew was really young. But we got in there, got a quick knock on it and we saved a lot of stuff," he said. "We saved a tractor and some tools."

As a volunteer organization -- only drivers and medics are paid positions -- the department is always looking for good people.

Stanton and Lucas have both visited local high schools to talk about the vital role volunteer firefighters play in the community.

Current volunteers range in age from high school students to one long-term volunteer who is in his 70s. Most are in their 30s and 40s and have jobs other than firefighting.

In a few months, the department will acquire a ladder truck, known as a tower to firefighters. The 93-foot ladder will enable firefighters to reach areas they previously could not.

"To staff the tower, we'll really need more volunteers," Stanton said. "We like to recruit volunteers in groups so they can go through the training together and develop some camaraderie."

On Sunday, the West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department will hold an open house from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. All members of the community are welcome.

"We're going to have demos," Lucas said. "We have an old car that was donated. We're going to set that on fire and put it out. We'll have all the equipment out, and we may give rides."

The West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department is at 12416 Frederick Road.

Information: 410-313-5403.

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