1938--75 Years –2013
by Daniel Coolahan, AVFD Historian
In November of 1937, a bitter dispute at the Violetville Volunteer Fire Department (VVFD) resulted in the splitting of the company. Seventeen men seized a fire engine, ambulance, and other property and formed the Community Volunteer Fire Department of Violetville. After a year of litigation the court awarded control of all assets to VVFD. With the suggestion of the Chief Engineer of the Baltimore County Fire Department (BCoFD), the defeated men relocated in the growing town of Arbutus.
The Arbutus Community Association leased a portion of their property to the firemen and donated lumber to help them with the construction of their firehouse. A small, two story, wood frame building was erected to house a 1927 American La France fire engine & 1932 Kissel ambulance downstairs and provided living quarters upstairs. A Ladies Auxiliary was formed and in 1939 was among the charter organizations of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Baltimore County Volunteer Fireman’s Association.
In 1940, AVFD bought the community hall building when Arbutus Community Association moved across the street to present day Town Hall. Five years later an addition was built onto the old community hall building to house additional apparatus.
A new 1942 Ford/Ward LaFrance engine was purchased and was later replaced by a 1947 Seagrave engine. A 1947 International Harvester panel truck was purchased for use as the first rescue squad and that was later replaced by a 1954 Dodge. In 1951 a 1947 Willy’s Jeep was purchased and replaced by a 1967 Jeep CJ-5 and in 1958 a 1957 SeaKing aluminum boat replaced an older aluminum boat. Many different ambulances passed through AVFD in the early years including a 1948 Buick Road master, 1952 & ’56 Cadillacs, Pontiacs, an Oldsmobile, Fords, and Chevy’s in the ‘60’s, ‘70’s, and ‘80’s.
The 1960’s brought about the lowering of the age limit for members from 21 to 18. In 1963 the Ladies Auxiliary was reorganized after a hiatus. In 1965 member Ed Kelly developed a reliable device for the suctioning of fluids from patients mouths. Although his design was the standard used for many years on ambulances everywhere, he was never truly credited for his work because he was denied a patent.
On May 4, 1964 ground was broken for a modern fire station and on October 20, 1964, AVFD moved to its new quarters at 5200 Southwestern Blvd. The new station provided necessary room for the apparatus and men with offices, recreation & bunk rooms, and a banquet hall. The two old buildings were then razed for parking.
The sixties and seventies brought more modern fire apparatus. A 1966 Mack engine replaced the ’47 Seagrave, and a 1969 Brockway replaced the ’54 Dodge in 1971. A 1973 Boston Whaler power boat and ’73 Chevy pick-up truck were purchased after Tropical Storm Agnes wreaked havoc on the east coast in 1972. After about a year the boat was sold when it was realized that it was not needed. In 1978, an additional engine (‘78 Seagrave) was purchased with a new lime green/yellow color scheme and the ambulances became modern Paramedic (medic) units.
By 1980, women were finally accepted as regular members of AVFD although it was not without a fight. Many believed strongly that women had no place in the firehouse but the ladies have competently filled nearly every position at AVFD since then and to this day the Department still boasts a higher than average percentage of female members.
The 1966 Mack engine was replaced with a ’87 Hahn and that was replaced with a 1999 Pierce. A ‘97 Pierce replaced the 1978 Seagrave, which was nearly identical to the ’99 Pierce. The 1969 Brockway Rescue Squad was replaced by a ’93 Spartan and the medic units were now state of the art Advanced Life Support units on heavy duty Ford and GMC chassis’s. With the new ’93 Spartan squad came the return of a red over white paint scheme which would again become the standard.
Once again in 1995, the age limit was lowered from 18 to 16 with parental consent. The following year AVFD became a specialized company in Swift Water Rescue. The 1988 Ford medic that had been replaced was re-designated as a Swift Water Rescue Response Unit.
In 1990 the Ladies Auxiliary had again disbanded but a group of ladies revived the Auxiliary in 1997 and opened it up to male and female members. In 1998 they made a presentation of new Holmatro rescue tools (jaws of life) to replace the 1970’s era Hurst system. They would continue to work hand in hand with the AVFD raising funds to purchase needed equipment for AVFD.
An ambitious plan to add much needed space to the station commenced on January 17, 2004 when Arbutus native, Gov. Robert Ehrlich and Comptroller/Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer were amongst the dignitaries who helped break ground on a building addition. Phase I of the project added a three story addition to the south side of the existing building with three additional bays, large dormitory areas, meeting rooms, and a working brass slide pole from the closed station of Baltimore City FD E-24. The Department moved in on October 7, 2005 and an official dedication was held on April 30, 2006.
The 1998 Ford/Horton Medic-356 was transitioned into a more reliable Swiftwater Rescue Unit (SU-359) when a new 2007 GMC Topkick/Horton was ordered as a replacement for M-356.
The Department is proud to work with a diverse membership of over 200 members, the largest of any volunteer department in Baltimore County. In part, this can be attributed to a partnership with neighboring University of Maryland Baltimore County that allows us to welcome students from across the U.S. as well as international students.
AVFD’s newest addition is our new Squad 354. A 2012 Pierce Impel, Heavy Rescue Squad officially arrived at the station on September 21, 2012 at 6:17pm. It was placed in service December 13, 2013 replacing a 1993 Spartan Gladiator/ American Fire & Rescue. The old squad found a new home at the Lubeck Volunteer Fire Department in Lubeck, WV.
AVFD has reached its 75th year of commitment to the community. Through the efforts of the membership, the Department has reached an enviable position among the volunteer fire companies of Baltimore County.