January 23, 2018
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  • The American LaFrance fire engine was the first official fire engine Earleigh Heights owned.
    Photo Provided
    The American LaFrance fire engine was the first official fire engine Earleigh Heights owned.
  • The original firehouse was on Truck House Road and had a 396-pound bell. It was thought that the elevated height of the tower would allow the sound of the bell to reach a further distance.
    Photo Provided
    The original firehouse was on Truck House Road and had a 396-pound bell. It was thought that the elevated height of the tower would allow the sound of the bell to reach a further distance.
  • The Earleigh Heights Fire Department had the first two-way radio in the county. It changed the way the fire department functioned.
    Photo Provided
    The Earleigh Heights Fire Department had the first two-way radio in the county. It changed the way the fire department functioned.
  • The Diamond T fire engine was the second type of fire engine Earleigh Heights owned. It was more technologically advanced and eventually held more water.
    Photo Provided
    The Diamond T fire engine was the second type of fire engine Earleigh Heights owned. It was more technologically advanced and eventually held more water.
  • The Ladies Auxiliary was formed in 1939, and it is still active today.
    Photo Provided
    The Ladies Auxiliary was formed in 1939, and it is still active today.

Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary

Maya Pottiger
Maya Pottiger's picture
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January 10, 2018

Part 1: The Department’s First 50 Years

On April 18, 1918, the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company opened on Truck House Road in Severna Park.

This year is the department’s 100th anniversary.

To commemorate the occasion, 76-year-old Joe Angyelof has spent the last year compiling the department’s history. His research has come in the form of newspaper articles, old photographs and talking to people whose ancestors were founding members of the fire department.

“I thought it would be just a couple-month adventure, but it’s been a year now,” Angyelof said. “I’m nowhere near complete because people, during the course of the year, have sent me their pictures or sent me an article out of a newspaper. It just adds to what I’ve been doing. This is an ongoing project to do the entire history of the fire department.”

Angyelof said this project isn’t aimed at the public, but at people in the fire service who are interested in the department’s history.

In 1959, Angyelof joined the Earleigh Heights Fire Department at the age of 16. He has since served as the volunteer fire chief and president of the company, and he now serves as a member of the board of directors. This year is Angyelof’s 59th year as a member.

Some of Angyelof’s primary sources are the original, handwritten logs of meeting notes he found in the fire station. Though the pages are yellowed and falling out, the history is legible.

The day-to-day of the firehouse has largely stayed the same, Angyelof found. The firehouse has continued to provide a place for “members to gather, work together and be part of a team.” The only aspect that really changed, Angyelof said, is that “it has become a very large operation in the fire suppression, emergency care and business areas requiring much more from the members in time and effort.”

Earleigh Heights’ first fire engine was the American LaFrance, which it acquired in 1930. Before that, firetrucks were primarily carts used to haul the equipment from place to place. The American LaFrance carried 500 gallons of water. When parked at a fire, the truck could not be moved while the pump was engaged. Firefighters had to disengage the pump before moving the truck.

In 1939, Earleigh Heights got its first Diamond T, which was capable of driving and pumping at the same time. It also carried 500 gallons of water. The second Diamond T carried 800 gallons of water, which was useful when fighting fires in rural areas.

Originally, Earleigh Heights had someone called a “chauffeur,” who was the first career firefighter and earned a salary of $80 a month. This was the beginning of the system most fire stations use today in staffing both volunteer and career firefighters.

“The chauffeur was originally hired basically as a caretaker of the truck house and equipment,” Angyelof said. “Additionally, it provided that someone would be on hand at all times to drive the fire engine.”

As time went on, the chauffeur position was given the rank of lieutenant, and was later renamed “engineman.” Today, the position is known as the “pump operator” and is a promotional step for career firefighters.

There have been many changes in equipment as technology advanced. To control small fires, first responders originally used hand-drawn soda-acid fire extinguishers.

The body of the extinguisher contained sodium bicarbonate dissolved in water, and the top had a bottle of sulfuric acid. When the extinguisher was turned upside-down, the two mixed to release carbon dioxide under pressure, which forced the water out of the extinguisher through a hose. It had to remain upside-down while in use.

Another technological advancement was the two-way radio, which was installed in February 1951. The first call was the letters “KGB466.”

Before the radio, if a fire were put out before firefighters arrived, someone at the station had to call a house or business on the fire truck’s route to flag the truck down, Angyelof said.

Earleigh Heights was the first company in Anne Arundel County to have a two-way radio.

As he delves into the department’s history, Angyelof said he hopes to change the public’s perception of firefighters.

“Years ago, there used to be a stigma that if you were a fireman, you didn’t do things between calls other than play cards and shoot pool,” Angyelof said.

Now, with all of the schooling required to be in the fire service, Angyelof said, everyone is reading books and studying between calls.

“You go [to the firehouse] with the intention of doing something constructive,” he said.

Check future editions of the Voice for history on the next 50 years and to learn about upcoming events to celebrate the 100-year milestone.

 

Ladies Auxiliary

The Earleigh Heights Ladies Auxiliary was organized on May 12, 1939. There were 25 members present, and dues were 10 cents per month.

A highlight for the women of the ladies auxiliary was during World War II when the men were at war and the fire departments were suffering. The women had to step up and fight fires, as they were the only able-bodied people around. An article Angyelof found specifically highlights Catherine Wilson. Her husband had a farm, and she knew how to drive the farm truck, which meant that she was able to drive the fire trucks.

The ladies auxiliary has been supporting the fire company for 79 years, Angyelof said. The auxiliary members do not fight fires, but there are both volunteer and career women firefighters at Earleigh Heights. The first event was a strawberry festival, and admission was 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children.

Today, the auxiliary has 42 members. They still host fundraising events, including an annual carnival, weekly bingo, oyster and bull roasts, and lunch with Santa.

“They continue to actively support the activities of the fire company in many ways,” Angyelof said. “Their devotion to duty is to be commended.”


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